While COVID-19 has turned all our lives upside down, a few Winnipeg companies have pivoted to address the crisis in inspiring ways.
Price Industries, a successful Winnipeg-based HVAC company founded and operating since 1949 with 1,400 employees in the city to date, just announced on April 9 that its Winnipeg factory will continue to operate at full capacity to help save lives during the epidemic.
The company has developed and is now manufacturing a fan filter unit that can pull air out of an enclosed environment, then safely filter it through an exhaust vent or to the outdoors. The technology could prove crucial for temporary hospital spaces, nursing stations, or areas of hospitals that will need to be used during the pandemic, as it will draw moisture and air that could contain COVID-19 right out of the space.
As David Surminski, the manager of critical environments for Price Industries explained to CBC Manitoba’s Sean Kavanagh, “You can basically wheel them into these patient rooms and within under 10 minutes you can convert that to a negative pressure isolation room.”
This kit is already being sold to regions that have been hit hard by the pandemic and in need of temporary treatment areas, including New York, New Jersey and Louisiana states.
Price is also currently making bus shields to protect transit drivers and aluminum support pieces to design portable shelters out of their subsidiary plants in Wisconsin and Calgary respectively. As well, Price has offered up its 29,000-square-foot research facility in Winnipeg, which contains test chambers that can mimic hospital operating rooms. It has offered access to its team of engineers to both levels of government for whatever uses are deemed necessary.
Canada Goose, the world-renown luxury winter outfitter which has been operating in Winnipeg since 2013 with three facilities, has just shifted gears to make medical supplies – including gowns and personal protective equipment – for frontline medical workers. This includes a commitment to produce 100,000 gowns for Manitoba health care workers alone.
On top of this, it is bringing back 900 workers to manufacture this medical gear across its facilities including Winnipeg, the Greater Toronto Area, Montreal and Boisbriand, Quebec.
“These unprecedented times call for decisive, collective action and now is the time for Canada to invest in Made-in-Canada solutions,” said Canada Goose president and CEO Dani Reiss, in a news release from April 9. “With one of the largest Canadian apparel manufacturing infrastructures in the country, we are uniquely positioned to re-tool our facilities and refocus our teams to produce a variety of personal protective equipment – and we are prepared to leverage all of our resources to do what’s right for our country.”
And it’s not just the huge players on Winnipeg’s manufacturing scene that have pivoted their output to help during COVID-19.
Winnipeg’s Acryl Designs manufacturing and print shop facility normally produces signs, awards, displays, and customized parts but is now manufacturing plexiglass shields for pharmacy, post office and grocery store workers.
The company has already produced 2,500 of these “sneeze guard” units, with orders coming in from across the country. To keep up with manufacturing, Acryl has hired 10 more staff bringing its workforce up to 14 employees, working 12-hour shifts.
Other Winnipeg companies are also lending a hand, and a clean one at that.
Duha Group, a Winnipeg manufacturer with a global reach that specializes in colour marketing tools and printing adapted its line to make and sell hand sanitizer to local businesses in need. 100 per cent of profits go back to helping local health cares workers and patients through the HSC Foundation’s COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund.
Patent 5 Distillery started producing hand sanitizer back in late-March to combat COVID-19, and is distributing it for free to Winnipeg not-for-profits and organizations in need, while Capital K Distillery is making and shipping hand sanitizer to Manitoba Corrections and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.