A UK-based design and manufacturing firm has pivoted its business model entirely in a bid to assist with preventative measures and PPE shortages for frontline NHS staff and others during the current COVID-19 outbreak. The business is now entirely not-for-profit and has a clear purpose to be able to continue during a time when demand for its usual products had halted.
Leon Edwards, the Managing Director of Display Mode, which usually produces point-of-sale displays and retail materials for the likes of Boots and Tesco, made the decision to switch the entire company’s output after a doctor put out a plea for help finding protective face shields in a WhatsApp group that Leon belonged to.
With orders being halted or delayed from big retailers as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak, this meant that pivoting the business would also mean that furlough arrangements or redundancies could be completely avoided; whilst at the same time switching to a new product offering that could help the current situation.
After initially looking into the possibility of producing face shields using 3D printing, he quickly realised that the quantities (which averaged 16 units per day) would not be enough to meet the demand and volume needed.
The development and production teams worked out how to make an alternative version and an initial run of 220 was produced and given to the NHS and charity workers free of charge. Leon decided to invest £40k in materials that wouldn’t ordinarily be used in DisplayMode’s production line, and the factory operation was then shifted completely; with machinery optimised to be able to produce 10,000 units per day.
The factory is moving from single 8-hour shifts to two 8-hour shifts per day for an optimised production line and possible triple shifts will be introduced to meet demand. The units will be charged at cost price (covering staff and operation) and the entire operation is not-for-profit. As efficiency increases and bigger volumes are able to be produced, prices will be reduced, so that any money made is redistributed back to savings for the customer or good causes such as giveaways or charity donations. Already, the firm has been able to reduce production costs by 11%.
Orders have been placed by more than a dozen NHS bodies and a local food company, who not only purchased the shields for staff but also an additional 500 to give away to Kettering General Hospital. With the Government calling for a “little ships” movement to help get the COVID-19 outbreak under control, DisplayMode is outreaching to further organisations with frontline staff to help, such as police forces, ambulance trusts and care staff.
Leon Edwards, Managing Director at DisplayMode, said:
“One morning I was driving to work and heard the video of the critical care nurse crying because she couldn’t get fruit and veg after 48 hours on duty. I decided to give one of our vans away to the charity Feeding Coventry to help with food distribution; but I realised I could be doing more, not only to help with efforts to protect people from COVID-19 but also because our business for the time being no longer really served a purpose.
“In just over a week, we’ve gone from looking as though we might not be able to continue as a business to having a clear purpose. This is categorically not-for-profit and is all about making a difference.
“Many smaller UK manufacturing companies like us are taking steps to help in this terrible crisis, but it’s near-impossible to get through to the people we can help via the government portals and so you hear of bigger firms such as Dyson and Mercedes F1 doing their bit, but not the independents. We are the “little ships” that the government has been crying out for. Face shields are just one type of PPE, but a really vital one in the face of what is the biggest crisis our generation has seen.
“Our designs are also being used by our Canadian partner Falcon Retail, to help with the COVID-19 situation further afield and we want to do all we can to make a difference. All of our staff, from designers to salespeople, and our two UK manufacturing facilities are now 100% focused on creating, manufacturing and delivering COVID-19 prevention products, including wipe stations, desktop sneeze guards and more.”