Janesville-based Monterey Mills pivoted its manufacturing capabilities in a five-week period to produce 65,000 masks daily for medical personnel on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. All the while, the company’s president Dan Sinykin and his family battled COIVD-19 themselves.
The company ordinarily produces knitted pile fabric used for paint rollers, wool and wool-blended buffing pads, hospital pads, wash mitts, apparel, toys and home furnishings. To launch their mask-making operation, Monterey Mills partnered with Oak Creek-based Eder Flag. Now, Monterey Mills fulfills orders for large health care systems and first responders around the country.
Step 1: Amid the global shortage of personal protective equipment at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sinykin decided Monterey Mills needed to help fill the gap. “The fact that we’re a textile company manufacturing different products including filtration media, we were the perfect company to step up,” he said.
Step 2: Sinykin discussed possible raw materials that could be used for masks with his management and development teams. The company began building mask prototypes with a variety of fabrics and air filtration media, materials that the company already had at its disposal.
Step 3: Monterey Mills acquired additional raw materials, sorting through each material and identifying which fabrics worked best. The company identified Eder Flag as an ideal partner given the company’s cut and sew operation experience, particularly with cutting polypropylene and polyester. “Monterey Mills had already made masks, but we wanted to use the expertise of Eder Flag to make improvements,” Sinykin said.
Step 4: UW Health contacted Monterey Mills asking for a timeline of when the manufacturer could bring masks into production. “We used them as an external expert tester to evaluate the products,” Sinykin said.
Step 5: Monterey Mills and Eder Flag continued to develop their prototype and drove a few samples to UW Health in Madison for additional testing. The following day, Monterey Mills received its first purchase order from UW Health for their washable and reusable fabric masks.
Step 6: By the fourth and fifth week, Monterey Mills had modified its mask from two-ply to three-ply. “We added cut and sew operations in California, Chicago and Virginia to help us with our capacity requirements,” Sinykin said. “We did some slight modifications on the specifications for the raw materials, but we then received a very large order from Advocate Aurora in Chicago. We were receiving calls from all over the country because of the press we received.”