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Wisconsin Manufacturer Quickly Adapts Product to Help Hospitals Fight Covid-19

Category: Rebuilding the Supply Chain Jun 23, 2020


By Kathy Keyes Webster, AMT Exhibitions Content Manager – Correspondence

This March, for the first time since founding Industrial Vacuum Equipment Corporation (IVEC) in 1992, Randy Bourdo was experiencing a downturn in commercial orders. But thanks to a special quick turnaround order for a hospital COVID-19 treatment unit, the potential to reengage on similar orders, and sound investments, he feels confident IVEC will weather the crisis.

In early March, a rental company of temporary air-movement units contacted IVEC to see if its Filt-Aire Dust Collector product could be modified to help create a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air )-filtered, negative-pressure environment for a Tennessee hospital treating COVID-19 patients. IVEC responded in the affirmative.

HEPA filters trap and remove airborne particulates as small as 0.3 microns, a size too small to be seen by the human eye. When it comes to virus spread, it is important that hospital air filtration equipment decrease the spread of particulates by removing them from the facility to keep patients and employees virus-free.

In the negative pressure environment, any sneeze, cough, or exhalation is drawn out of the room and into the temporary ductwork connected to a collector. The IVEC Filt-Aire Dust Collector is a double axel trailer structure with dimensions approximate to a midsize RV. Each collector contains 36 filters.

Thrill, then Destress
IVEC was elated about the possibility of a new order because current customers had begun cancelling requests due to stay-at-home government orders. The lull allowed IVEC to institute a social distancing work flow and cleaning protocols. Days, then weeks passed waiting for a response. Emails and phone calls to the rental agency weren’t returned. Hope for the new order was diminishing.

All Hands on Deck
Finally, by mid-March, the rental company broke the silence asking IVEC for an inventory list to be sure they could retrofit eight IVEC Filt-Aire Dust Collectors in five days. Once the inventory list was reviewed, the rental company placed the order.

Acquiring enough HEPA filters to support this application was key. This order cleaned out IVEC’s inventory of 200 HEPA filters. When they explained the situation to their supplier, the supplier was able to get them plenty to fulfil the hospital order and for future orders.

Within five days, the first of six 18-wheelers delivered the first IVEC modified Filt-Aire Dust Collector to the Tennessee hospital. Within two weeks, all eight collectors were in place around the hospital’s exterior. Each collector connects to 12-16” ductwork plumbed into windows near the virus unit.

The Greatest Reward
By mid-April, the rental company called to tell Bourdo that none of the health care workers at the facility had contracted the virus.

“To know that the environment we helped create has performed effectively to keep healthcare workers safe is immensely gratifying,” says Bourdo. “This news has had a positive effect on moral. All the employees feel a strong sense of mission in what they’re building. They all feel proud that machines they make in tiny Ixonia, Wisconsin, (population 4,562) are having a positive impact in the fight against the pandemic.”

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