With increasingly shorter lead times and strict SLAs imposed by customers, printing companies are – in normal times – experts in crisis management when it comes to getting jobs done correctly, outdoors and on time. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the health crisis that sparked it have created a whole new level of challenges. Printing companies across the country are struggling to keep their facilities open and keep their workers busy. They struggled to stay on the lists of “essential” or “life sustaining” businesses as states imposed instructions on the housing and staying of executives at home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The graphic community has also overwhelmingly responded to calls for help regarding the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to hospital workers, first responders and other health care providers who continue to risk their own lives to save the lives of others.
Other ways that printers are amplified in their local communities and regions in response to the pandemic – from making components for COVID-19 test kits, medical ID cards, and signage for coronavirus test centers, to personalized direct mail delivering critical messages includes and calls for funds from overburdened charities – for food and drug packaging – for classroom materials to help families home-school their children – and more.
As just one example, Allied Printing Services, based in Manchester, Connecticut, performs most, if not all, of these activities. Due to the lack of protective equipment, Allied President and CEO John Sommers and his 380 full-time team members were able to quickly rebuild manufacturing lines to produce thousands of face shields that are donated to hospitals, outpatient services and health care providers in the area.
Allied also developed educational workbooks for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center with crossword puzzles, word searches, sudoku, coloring books, and other “enrichment activities”. In addition, the company’s charitable foundation donated money to a soup kitchen in nearby Hartford, Conn.
However, there are many more print service providers (PSPs) that are facing this challenge:
- Olympus Group in Milwaukee focused heavily on fabric printing for banners, exhibits and retail displays, leveraging its skilled sewing staff and manufacturing capabilities to make masks and face shields for medical teams and first aiders.
- Image Options, based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., Has also relocated manufacturing capacity to make face masks for local hospitals and make food signs. In addition, the CNC cutting systems are used to make pop-up beds, partitions and suction tables, all of which can be made for temporary medical settings.
- Calagaz Printing, a 17-employee business in Mobile, Alabama, quickly went from prototype to producing 5,000 face shields.
- Duggal Visual Solutions has partnered with a manufacturing company in the Brooklyn, NY Navy Yard to open a warehouse that will assemble hundreds of thousands of face shields.
- On Long Island, another COVID-19 epicenter, the Minuteman Press franchise in Levittown, NY, is using 3D printers to make face shields and ventilation parts.
- Graphic Visual Solutions of Greensboro, NC offers free printing of COVID-19 informational signs that customers can use to communicate best practices and safety protocols to help contain the spread of the virus.
- In Sacramento, Calif., Time Printing Solutions Provider prints signage created by the Centers for Disease Control for use in hospitals and businesses to encourage social distancing and hand washing.
- Kirkwood Printing, based in Wilmington, Massachusetts, was a commercial printer producing signage for test centers, hospitals and supermarkets and mobilizing for the overnight delivery of outdoor signage printed for drive-through test centers for a national pharmacy headquartered.
These are just a few examples of PSPs across America who have risen to the challenge, and of course there are many more who make similar efforts to make protective gear, volunteer, and run fundraisers.
If ever there was a time to really take pride in the way industrial companies respond to the needs of their communities – and even an entire nation – it is surely now.