A Message from Ryan...
Hey everyone, it’s Ryan, President of Seneca Woodworking. We’ve been quieter than usual on social media, so I want to update everyone on what’s happening here at Seneca Woodworking. This story is longer than our usual e-mails, so I’ll send out several messages and blog posts on this topic.
Like with everyone else, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of uncertainty here. We’re based in Pennsylvania, and when the governor announced that all “non-essential” businesses in the state were to shut down, the gravity of the situation sank in. I had a lot of questions rooted in fear:
- Will my friends and family be okay?
- How will I keep paying my employees?
- Is my business going to fail?
- Will I ever get to use toilet paper again?
There’s a lot in life we can’t control, but there's also a lot that we *can*. When things get tough, It’s important to keep calm, avoid overreacting and focus on the things you actually can control.
Any time you fly on a commercial airplane, you’re given the instruction to ‘put on your oxygen mask first’. This wisdom applies to many aspects of life: If you don't preserve your own wellbeing, it ultimately becomes more difficult or impossible to help others.
It took us a couple days to slow down, get out of panic mode, and regroup. Luckily, the state’s guidelines allowed us to keep shipping orders. The short term might be rough, but it looked like we’d be okay—even if it meant we would have to tighten our belts and eat ramen noodles a few times a week.
Worldwide, many “open source” healthcare initiatives were created to ease the shortage of PPE and other pandemic-related equipment, like ventilators. After researching the effectiveness of various initiatives, we determined that we could best help by manufacturing face shields that we 3D printed and laser cut here in our shop.
So, we got to work! We collaborated with healthcare organizations to refine our prototypes and assembled a network of people to help with 3D printing. We spent about a month making face shields and delivered them to facilities like hospitals, long-term care homes, doctor’s offices, visiting nurse associations, and dentist offices. Although it was great to produce face shields within only a few days, it takes over two hours to print each shield. The need far outstretched our production capabilities, even while leveraging a sizable printer farm.
Also, similar to a national toilet paper shortage, we encountered a raw material shortage because of other people scrambling to manufacture PPE, making it increasingly difficult to find the appropriate filament, PETG more so. One day, I called about 20 different plastic suppliers and discovered that everyone was out of stock of the PETG and polycarbonate plastic sheets that we used for the clear part of the face shields.
We contacted an injection molding company and helped to develop a streamlined, lighter version of our headband that could be quickly mass-produced. Due to the unavailability of reliable supplies, we got creative. Our solution: three-hole-punched transparency sheets. The stationery section of our nation’s supply chain hasn’t been stressed yet, so these are in abundant supply. Our reusable plastic headband is easily sterilized, and the clear plastic shields are cheap to replace. We can produce thousands of face shields per day and provide them at a price below the average market rate.
We went from barely being able to keep up with our local need for face shields, to now having far more capacity than is currently being utilized. We want to put this capacity to good use.
Our goal is to help as many people as possible, but we’re experts in manufacturing, not raising money, nor are we experienced at running a charity. We decided the best way to approach this is to make our face shields available for a price that’s below the average market rate. This allows us to focus on what we do best, scaling production as needed to help people on the front lines of this crisis and hopefully giving much needed jobs to people in our community. Focusing on keeping the price below the normal market average in a time when we’ve seen prices on PPE skyrocket ensures we can help the most people.
This is where we need your help:
We don't have a huge marketing budget for the face shields, because our goal is to keep the price low. If you're on the front lines fighting against Covid-19, we have face shields available for purchase in our store. If you have friends or family working on the front lines, or if you know of a business in your area that's having trouble getting the PPE they need, please let them know we have these available. Click HERE to learn more!