When the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) joined forces to help support the region’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply during the current pandemic, they also kick started a new collaboration between two companies located just 20 miles apart.
After issuing a call to arms to business to help supply or manufacture PPE, the WMCA has teamed up with Medilink WM, the region’s industry association for the life sciences and medical technology sectors and the WMAHSN’s link to the wider industry, who have been supporting the recruitment of suitable businesses.
Two of many businesses that came forward were Rubgy-based Autins Group PLC, specialists in providing materials and products for acoustic and thermal management solutions, and Contechs Holdings Ltd, a tier 1 automotive design, development & trimming consultancy. Both companies were exploring how manufacturing capabilities, facilities and skills could be used to address the issue of supplying PPE products but thanks to the WMAHSN, industrial gateway team they are now working collaboratively.
Initially, Autins was manufacturing face masks using its knowledge of specialist acoustic and insulation materials and Contechs was supporting specialist workwear companies with preparing material to produce scrubs, using its large cutting platform. Both these companies would have had to furlough all, or the majority of their staff and their manufacturing technology would otherwise have been dormant due to the shutdown of the automotive sector was it not for this work.
Chris Dyke, Connectivity Manager at Medilink WM, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that a lot of organisations have had to explore new ways of working and that WMAHSN had to call upon the region’s businesses to help keep our healthcare workforce safe. Not only have we been successful in finding organisations via the WMCA Challenge that can help with this, but we have also managed to link two businesses together that will benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise long-term.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA,added: “It is great to see two local companies with no prior experience of PPE manufacturing coming together to help support the West Midlands during this difficult time.
“I know these are just two of many businesses across the region who answered our call to arms, and the response from organisations looking to help has been brilliant to see.”
Since being linked together by WMAHSN, the two organisations have now been working together on manufacturing face masks. Autins is continuing to produce the face masks while Contechs has been subcontracted and is using sewing and trimming expertise to finalise and attach ear loops to the masks.