In January, when news of a new, unknown contagion was first announced by the World Health Organization (WHO), few could have anticipated the far-reaching effects that COVID-19 would have on communities worldwide.
As efforts to protect communities and overcome COVID-19 continue on a global level, multinational corporations, and small- and medium-sized companies alike are joining in the fight and focusing their efforts to help meet the needs of communities worldwide.
In the final instalment of this blog, we will take a look at how different sectors are helping to fill gaps in essential items, including medical devices, COVID-19 testing kits, and personal protective equipment and shed a light on how Domino is supporting customers throughout the pandemic.
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Medical devices and laboratory testing equipment
Countries worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – including the UK, the US, Italy, France, and Spain – have all reported shortages of key equipment needed to protect frontline staff and care for patients, including hand sanitiser, personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and respirators. As a result, some governments have taken steps to make it easier for businesses producing these essential products.
In March, the UK Government eased administrative requirements on the production of hand sanitiser and PPE to help meet the demand, while in the US, the FDA has been working with manufacturers and laboratories submitting emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for unapproved medical products including coronavirus testing kits and ventilators.
In the US, the FDA is currently working with more than 380 test developers submitting EUAs for coronavirus testing kits, and several prominent companies, including Ford, GE Healthcare, and 3M, are working to produce modified respirators and ventilators. Similarly, in the UK, a group of businesses from across the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors, has come together to produce emergency ventilators for the NHS.
Once again, the labelling of these critical products is an essential step which cannot be overlooked. Medical devices and lab testing equipment are subject to strict labelling requirements governed by the countries and regions in which a product is used and sold, and often include the requirement for variable data labelling to ensure that products can be properly tracked and traced.
“In the US, the demand for variable data labelling for these products is unprecedented,” says Gary Peterson, Account Manager for Variable Data Solutions for Domino Digital Printing. “Ordinarily, labels for medical devices and test kits would need to be approved by the FDA before use. Manufacturers do not currently have the time to go through the normal procedures to do this – but the items still need to be labelled correctly to ensure that they can be properly tracked.”
“While the FDA is working with manufacturers and laboratories to ensure that these products can be created safely,” says Peterson.
“At Domino, we are working with our customers in the labelling industry to ensure that the concept and requirement for the label can be turned over quickly utilising our variable data printing solutions.”
Gary Peterson - Account Manager for Variable Data Solutions for Domino Digital Printing
With years of experience providing advice to medical device manufacturers around the world, Domino is more than just a provider of the coding, marking, and labelling technology required for compliance. Our regulatory experts have a robust understanding of legislative frameworks around the world and can help advise manufacturers wishing to switch production to medical devices of the correct path to compliance.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Domino’s subsidiaries and distributors around the world have gone to extra lengths to provide expertise and support of customers producing critical products – to ensure that they can be produced safely, and quickly, in order to keep up with increasing demand. This includes ramping up production of fluids and hardware and taking extra steps to fulfil urgent customer requests for the production of essential products.
At the beginning of the crisis, shortly after the Albanian government imposed strict lockdown measures limiting travel by car, local Domino distributor Elmed received an urgent ink order from a pharmaceutical customer based 20km away from the company’s headquarters. The team, eager to fulfil the customer request and support global efforts during the pandemic, made the quick decision to fulfil the order by loading the ink bottles into backpacks and completing the delivery by bicycle.
It is not just customers who benefit from the support of Domino’s offices around the world – with workforces in some regions utilising existing technology to provide support directly to communities and hospitals – you can read more about this in the next section, on face masks and PPE.
Face masks and PPE
In Sweden, since the beginning of April, Domino Print and apply (manufacturers of labelling solutions) has been lending a hand to produce protective visors for use in local hospitals and communities. A 3D printer, typically utilised by the research and development team to make machine parts, has been put to work manufacturing plastic visors using instructions provided as part of an initiative by 3DVerkstan. Volunteer staff in Sweden print the masks and deliver batches of visors to medical personnel at nearby hospitals once a week.
When it comes to producing essential items, it is not just manufacturers of engineering products who are stepping in to lend a hand. With huge shortages of face masks in countries worst hit by COVID-19, manufacturers of clothing, mattresses, and footwear are also leveraging the equipment they have on hand to help fill the gap in demand.
US manufacturer of footwear and apparel, New Balance, went from producing an initial design for a face mask to setting up a whole new production line in just seven days. While the initial prototype mask was not FDA approved and so could only be used for personal protection at home, New Balance has specified that they are working to meet FDA requirements and achieve a product that can be confidently used by frontline medical staff.
In the US and elsewhere, masks for use by medical staff must meet certain requirements for air filtration and be certified against relevant government standards. Accredited masks are certified as N95, KN95, and FFP3 in the US, China, and the UK, respectively.
While there is no international legislation surrounding the coding of medical grade face masks, as with any device used within a medical setting, manufacturers must ensure that their masks are coded in line with individuals regulations governed by the countries in which a product is used and sold. Often this will include requirements for labelling with the relevant certification or national standard number.
At the beginning of the pandemic, as all but essential factories and production plants across the EU were forced to close down, manufacturers across the regions may have found themselves hard pushed to continue production, without continued support from partners in other industries. Domino and our partners and distributors across Europe have fought hard to continue production and supply of essential services for customers producing critical products during this time.
In the next section, we will take a look at how some of our Digital Printing customers are helping out companies diversifying their product line and utilising existing stock and production equipment to help meet increasing demand for hand sanitiser.
In the US, Domino customers have been working to fulfil urgent requests from customers who have diversified their production lines to help meet the increasing demand for hand sanitiser.
International Label & Printing Co., Inc. based in Illinois, recently fulfilled an urgent order from a prominent producer of cleaning and detailing products for airline industries who had been working on a formula for a disinfectant spray and pre-saturated disinfectant wipes prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. As the virus began to spread in the US, and demand for hand soap and sanitisers hit a record high, the company was keen to get its solution to market as soon as possible.
“The customer approached us with an urgent request for labels so that they could start shipping out their hand sanitiser to help meet the unprecedented increase in demand. With support from the Domino service team we worked tirelessly to fulfil the order and were able to turn around the labels in record time, despite longer than normal lead times on stocks and materials. The process from start to finish had a three-day turnaround time, after which the customer was able to start shipping the much-needed supplies in this time of crisis.”
DeAnna Papachristopoulos - Regional Sales Director – North America at International Label & Printing
Around the world, craft breweries and distilleries have also stepped up to lend a hand, with companies including Brewdog in the UK, Pernod Ricard in France, Labatt Brewing Company in Canada, Rampur Distillery in India, and Bacardi in Puerto Rico all leveraging existing supplies and equipment to produce hand sanitiser.
“In the US, we have received multiple requests from customers at breweries and distilleries to help get these products to market, and keep consumers safe during the global pandemic,” says Papachristopoulos.
“In the last few months, we have been dedicated to continuing support for customers producing essential items during this time. Adapting to the “new normal” has been challenging, but we couldn’t be any happier to help in this time of need – as a business, we remain committed to making a difference one label at a time.”
Getting back to business as usual
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it increasingly difficult for companies to carry on business as usual, but in spite of all the challenges, it is imperative to keep production moving. At Domino, we have made strategic changes and put in place temporary measures to ensure that our employees are kept safe throughout the duration of COVID-19 crisis so that we can continue the supply of our essential services.
“Our main commitment has been in creating the confidence in our teams, and among our staff, to show that we can continue to operate, and to do so safely,” says Rachel Hurst, Chief Operating Officer at Domino. “While a lot of companies are now only just beginning to get back to work, we have continued our operations throughout the pandemic.”
“All of our indirect manufacturing staff, including those working in supply chain management, procurement, and the majority of our engineers are all working from home very successfully, and new measures have been put in place to ensure that those on site can continue to work safely.”
“In the UK, there has been a huge commitment on the part of our frontline staff who have continued to come into work when they are needed most,” says Carl Haycock, Operations Director and Global Head of Health and Safety and Manufacturing Excellence at Domino. “On site, all our staff are working under new systems to adhere to government guidelines – this includes measures to enable social distancing.”
In order to continue production in the UK, Domino’s operations staff have carried out COVID-19 risk assessments across all sites, to ensure that all manufacturing processes can be carried out in line with new government regulations.
“We have worked hard to prepare an environment where our staff can work safely, with control measures in place to further protect staff where social distancing is not possible – this includes protective screens and access to PPE,” continues Haycock.
By adjusting our operations in line with government advice, and ensuring that worker safety remains a key priority, we can be instrumental in helping manufacturers to maintain production and ensure a steady supply of all products needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around the world, Domino employees and our partners within Coding & Marking and Digital Printing are working tirelessly to provide additional support during the current crisis – includes supporting customers in key industries to keep up with production demands, and providing flexible labelling solutions for manufacturers producing new or varied products in order to help fight the disease.
In a time of crisis, we are all still working, to make sure that we can keep you running.
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