SAGINAW, Mich. (WJRT) — It took just six days for a Saginaw company to switch gears from manufacturing roofing systems to producing potentially life-saving personal protection equipment in the form of isolation gowns and non-surgical face masks.

“What it does is offer full protection front to back,” said Mike Tracey, Duro-Last, Inc. Vice President of Operations.

Mike Tracey, VP of Operations, showed ABC12 the gown Thursday. It’s made of flexible PVC film and repels liquids. That’s incredibly useful when fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can make film at a rapid rate. That’s the base product that we use in our roofing,” Tracey said.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer again addressed the critical need for personal protection equipment (PPE) for health care workers on the front lines.

“The thought of a stockpile is dream right now because we’re just trying to get our hands on every mask, you know, N95 and surgical,” Whitmer said. “Every gown we can get.”

She said some hospitals have a few days worth of PPE while others have to come up with ways to conserve as much as they can, which can be difficult to do in the heat of the battle.

Tracey explained that the gowns start with the PVC film, then they’re pulled across the Eastman fabric cutting machine and cut into the shape they want.

With pinpoint accuracy the fabric cutter does its job, not just with the gowns but with the masks, too. It’s normally used for roofing materials.

“Once that’s cut into shape, we fold them and bring them over to the welding operation where the arms are welded. The entire process takes probably about 2 minute for one gown,” Tracey said.

50 workers are turning out 3,000 gowns each day and 2,000 face masks, using its roofing technology to now protecting people instead of buildings. Tracey says they’ve produced 20,000 gowns so far.

“We developed the product in conjunction with Beaumont Hospital in Metro Detroit. They’re kind of the center of the epidemic here in Michigan, and we were starting primarily to send it to them,” Tracey said.

He says there were 12 prototypes of the gown before they agreed on the 13th, and that’s the product we see today.

“We’ve been also able to fill supplies for some local businesses,” Tracey said.

Their customers include fire departments, EMS, hospices and home care facilities. Tracey couldn’t be prouder of the company’s ability to pivot as quickly as it has.

“The lady standing behind me at this table here she goes home and makes masks on her own, on her own time when she’s gone,” he said. “She typically doesn’t work in this building and just asked can I please come over here and work on this.”

The company’s workforce will go from 50 to 70 next week. Tracey says they’ve partnered with Euclid Industries in Bay City to bring some of their staff to Saginaw.

“So it is a real sense of pride for our business, for our owners,” Tracey said. “To be a small local family-owned business, we’re just trying to do whatever part we can, and we’re hoping others will do the same.”

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