A New England based manufacturer of the best virus testing swabs available recently contacted us because of our large machining and fabricating capabilities. In extremely short order, GMFCo began fabricating frames and housings for medical test swab manufacturing equipment to rapidly increase capacity. Practically overnight, Puritan Medical Products needed to multiply it’s swab manufacturing capacity, meeting worldwide demand for COVID-19 testing.
Headquartered in Gilford, Maine, Puritan was already a leading US-based manufacturer of medical swabs, diagnostics and specimen collection products before COVID-19. Then the pandemic swept across the world and multiplied global demand for their products overnight. As soon as we got the call, GMFCo understood the urgency of supporting Puritan Medical Products’ manufacturing operations so we tooled up to produce the frames and larger components needed to further build out their swab production lines. This resulted in the fastest and most efficient increase in manufacturing capability in company history. It also helped make the USA the top nation in the world for COVID-19 testing, by far.
Manufacturing Collaboration at Its Best
When it became clear there was an urgent worldwide and national health threat, manufacturers’ priorities shifted immediately over to supporting the critical infrastructure and healthcare systems. That we did. Working closely with the engineers and mechanics at Puritan, we helped assure that their urgent need for new equipment parts was fulfilled.
Fruitful efforts like these supported President Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” initiatives that rapidly increased critical manufacturing around the country. Puritan Medical Products’ expansion to produce the most accurate specimen collection swabs in testing for COVID-19 was crucial to its success. Because Puritan is the only US maker of the preferred foam testing swab, they were awarded a federal contract to expand swab production capacity at a record speed.
“Warp Speed” Plant Expansion
Puritan’s blog tells part of their story as excerpted here. “We began work on a new manufacturing plant immediately, with two teams working virtually around the clock. We leased 100,000 square feet of space in an old smoke detector factory in Pittsfield, ME, rebuilding much of it…
“While a project of this type normally takes 18-20 months, with the help of our partners, we were able to begin swab production in just 8 weeks. And 5 months later, the plant was completed.
“Prior to opening Pittsfield, we were making 20 million foam swabs per month. The goal set forth by the Defense Production Act government contact was to increase capacity by another 20 to 40 million swabs per month. We’re excited to report that Pittsfield is already turning out 40 million and is on track to increase production to 90 million swabs per month!”
More Positive Impacts
The 2020 Puritan Medical Products plant expansions led to the creation of over 300 new jobs in central Maine where the manufacturing sector has struggled in recent decades. “It’s great to help bring back manufacturing jobs that were once so prevalent in central Maine,” the company’s blog stated.
GMFCo’s CEO Jack Gilchrist, a US Air Force Veteran and former medic, put his company’s role in perspective when he said, “2020 was the year that reminded us what words like ‘crisis’ and ‘urgent’ really mean. You drop everything in front of you when millions of lives are potentially at stake. You wake up, suit up and show up wherever you’re most needed. Working with Puritan and other companies who answer urgent needs brings into focus why we’re always ready to pivot on a dime, gear up and retool our large machining centers to help address national priorities.”