A medical mask manufacturer continues to ramp up in Georgia to serve the North American market, despite its Canadian owner’s plans to build a large factory at home and diversify worldwide.
Medicom Group said the new factory near its home base in Montreal would not syphon off demand from its United Medical Enterprises plant in Augusta, which has already grown staff by more than 10 percent to nearly 90 workers and will continue to increase production and hire more people as new machines come on line.
“The demand for surgical face masks far, far outweighs capacity on a global basis and our UME factory is expanding, growing and hiring. We are very proud of our U.S. presence and U.S.-made masks, which will continue to serve the entire North American market,” said Gayle Padvaiskas, vice president of marketing, in an email to Global Atlanta.
Production at the Augusta plant was initially expanded way back in February, when an export ban on masks from China threw a wrench into Medicom’s already extensive global supply chain.
More than half of the world’s medical masks were made in China, and the sudden constriction of supply necessitated a quick rampup in other factories in Taiwan, France and Georgia to meet demand throughout the globe. Medicom’s large France factory, for instance, normally churned out 170 million pieces per year; Medicom suddenly had orders for 500 million more, about 100 days worth of its global production capacity.
At that point, the coronavirus outbreak had just spread out of China, where it originated, with cases numbering just over 73,000. As it became a global pandemic, masks became an even more integral part of the containment effort. Now, more than 10 million people have tested positive for COVID-19, including more than 2.5 million in the United States alone.
Health authorities in the U.S. eventually recommended the use of masks in public spaces, especially indoors, after more than a month of downplaying their effectiveness and asking Americans to reserve masks for health care workers amid an acute shortage.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is reportedly set to embark on a tour of the state this week pleading for people to heed health guidelines and wear masks after the state marked weekly and daily records for new cases Sunday.
With concerns growing over China’s dominance of medical supply chains and masks now a fixture in the fight against COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, Medicom is going even further to diversify its production bases around the world.
“The requests and requirements are coming from many areas, including critical care, due to the current (personal protective equipment) shortage globally as well as various government actions around the world to secure supply for local needs and banning of exports. This has caused demand to surge and also highlighted the importance of local supply,” Ms. Padvaiskas said.
Medicom announced its Montreal factory in late March as the Canadian government said it would procure 157 million masks domestically in a bid to reduce foreign dependency in the medical sphere. In May, Medicom revealed that the contract with the Canadian government would include 20 million N95 respirator masks, which protect the wearer from most particles and droplets, and 24 million surgical masks per year for the next 10 years.
Medicom in June said it would put a new factories in Singapore and the United Kingdom, the latter of which will employ 75 people producing 100 million N95 masks and 500 medical masks in a deal with the British government.
Guillaume Laverdure, Medicom Group’s chief operating officer and president for North America, told Global Atlanta in February that the sudden cutoff of Chinese supply presented challenges even for a company well-versed in “managing the long supply chain of raw materials.” That reinforced the need to distribute production around the world.
“Medicom always had the vision that you have to have a local presence to answer short-lead-time needs, and this time with the shutdown of China, it proved that it was the right choice versus consolidating everything into one market or one place,” Mr. Laverdure said at the time. “It was very important for us to stay diversified in terms of production capability.”
Read Global Atlanta’s initial story on Medicom here: