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The Coronavirus pandemic has put an unexpected pause to what could have been a great start for 2020 in many industries and areas throughout the world, impacting human lives, business, and ways in which we interact. The potential health effects of COVID-19 and ramifications continue to reverberate. Even under these trying circumstances, some defining sources of light have emerged that are moving us forward - some in major advances and some bringing us together in unexpected ways - all taking us to positive places.
Do you remember on May 30 when millions worldwide celebrated the pioneering spirit of mankind and continuous innovation? We collectively watched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and private space company, SpaceX, venture on the first American manned launch since 2011 with Launch America. There are other numerous innovations in technology, telemedicine, logistics and government and private sectors that show us working together and helping each other.
Together, we are finding ways to address the “new normal” that potentially can even leave us better than before as we seek to improve life and support others. Nowhere is this more apparent than how many have stood up to the challenges and faced them with compassion, courage and perseverance. We see it in:
- The faces of brave doctors and nurses putting aside their fears to console our own and putting us first. The appreciation we have shown through clapping for our carers, serenading them with touching songs, and making standing ovations has also created global solidarity.
- Young people such as university students delivering goods to vulnerable populations, creating a bridge between generations. Whether coordinating via WhatsApp or other social media, they are helping with everything from shopping and dog walking to picking up prescriptions.
- The increase in families spending time together and bonding during “quarantine quality time.”
- People getting back to nature, bluer skies and cleaner air.
- People taking in pets for companionship and comfort, with the MSPCA seeing a 20% increase in adoption.
- Businesses enduring and finding new ways to innovate and give back.
Passion for Positivity
As part of a global manufacturing organization, Saint-Gobain Seals has been focused for centuries on designing sealing and materials solutions with well-being and the future in mind. Our natural inclination to solve, develop and create pushed us to also find ways we could help our customers, communities and teams during this pandemic. The same action was also taken by other Saint-Gobain businesses.
In addition to developing detailed roadmaps and instituting new steps to quickly redesign workflows to ensure safety and materials supply, Saint-Gobain North America reached out to governments to understand where and how we could best redeploy technologies, manufacturing operations and human expertise. One positive result was our Life Sciences business prioritizing production and delivery of single-use assemblies for new therapies and components for life-saving ventilators, infusion pumps, and other medical devices. Saint-Gobain France multiplied by 15 times production of silicone membranes used in respirators. Saint-Gobain supplied partition walls and plasterboard for nursing homes and transformed stadiums to field hospitals.
One lasting impression we saw and a constant throughout this time was the power of the human spirit, with each person’s ability to make a difference, as our team members continued to seek out ways to go above and beyond to help, even as many also transitioned to working from home and dealing with challenges of the pandemic. Their commitment to give back to customers and society continually reminds us that “we are all in this together.”
As just one example, the Sekurit team at the Saint-Gobain Seals Garden Grove, California, facility was determined to convert a share of their manufacturing knowledge and capacities from glass assembly for the automotive industry to other timely purposes. Other companies in the automotive industry such as Ford, GM, Tesla, Toyota, and Ferrari have followed the same thinking and have ramped up production low-cost, simplified versions of ventilators, respirators and face shields. While it may take a medical company 27 hours to make a ventilator, for instance, an automotive company might do it in half the time.
Face shields have been a popular item to produce as part of personal protective equipment (PPE), whether by 3D printing or using items from office supply and craft stores. Composed of three main components (a plastic headband, a clear plastic sheet and elastic), the reusable equipment has been in short supply in many countries due to supply chain disruption.
In the beginning of April, Sekurit Plant Manager Edouard Jonville was contacted by Saint-Gobain Solar Gard in San Diego, who shared news of their development of face shields by using Saint-Gobain materials such as PET film and foam tape from our Tape Solutions business. They were looking for assembly capacities to prepare for potential high-volume demands, which was a good match with what the Sekurit team at Garden Grove could offer. The collaboration moved ahead quickly. In a matter of weeks, the teams were able to develop their first prototype manufacturing with the management team to finalize the design of a production cell. So far, as a result, Saint-Gobain team members and volunteers have developed over 5,000 face shields that have been distributed to hospitals in the San Diego area to protect front line workers as they care for others. The Sekurit team has continued to contribute with 300 face shields going to local non-profits: Elwyn, Salvation Army and La Palma Intercommunity Hospital.
In other areas of the U.S., our teams also contributed.
Saint-Gobain Seals’ Bristol, Rhode Island, team, typically focused on making Meldin® polyimide materials for the aerospace and automotive industries, pivoted to create cloth mask patterns for industry workers, families and friends. Using their innovative, world-class, manufacturing approaches, coupled with their philosophy that ‘if one person can be trained in a skill, they can then teach others that skill as well,’ the plant is now producing 1,000 cloth masks per week.
Saint-Gobain HyComp in Cleveland, Ohio has donated 950 KN-95 masks, 150 surgical masks and 300 nitrile gloves to local hospitals in the University Hospital System.
Forecast in Positivity
Though 2020 may have begun with a rocky start for mankind overall, it has highlighted the power of the human mind and spirit and how we can innovate when we work together. We are even more inspired, as a result, for the power of advancement. 2020 and the years ahead promise many more exciting firsts, including:
- NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission and Perseverance Rover exploring new frontiers.
- Japan’s first lunar rover and plan to build a robotic moon base.
- Continuous advancement of autonomous vehicles for use in logistics, healthcare, and more.
- Adaptive supply chains and Industry 4.0 processes in manufacturing.
- Green energy and offshore floating solar and other innovations in the energy sector.
- Advancement in artificial intelligence in life saving healthcare equipment, smaller and smarter medical devices, and the development of important vaccines.
Our teams are also striving to make a positive impact in the future. Our space team is supporting various types of missions such as Launch America and satellite systems. Satellites have proven to be very valuable during the coronavirus outbreak as they have been used to monitor global effects such as air pollution. New data has shown that a significant amount of air pollution has been reduced due to slowdown of car engines, power plants and other industrial processes.
This positive change in air pollution has also impacted our thinking on how we go from place to place. Some people like the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has taken initiative to help his community move around by overhauling the city’s streets to encourage more people to walk and cycle when the lockdown is eased. Londoners will have a cleaner city to live and work in, making a tangible difference to their daily lives that may lead to a healthier and happier place. Vienna is another place that is rewarding their communities by setting a reward for those who get around the city on foot, by bicycle or by public transport instead of using their cars.
Wherever you are, we are sure that there are some positive places you can see or go – either mentally or physically. As we start to see the beginning of the return to the “new normal,” we are happy to be able to share how we have made some positive uses of this unexpected time. By ensuring safety and inspiring collaboration, we continue to focus on our commitments and constant quest for innovation, and thinking how we can best support our customers, communities and team members. We would love to hear the positive places you have been or if you need help to move forward in your industry; please contact us!