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The work of protecting humans just got more important

May 1st, 2020 / By: / Editorial

Suddenly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become a hot commodity and an often-
heard phrase on the lips of government officials, members of the media and the general public. But IFAI member companies and the textile industry at large have always known that the purpose of fabrics has been to offer protection—health-related and otherwise—to humans.

The textile industry has had a key part to play in this crisis, but it’s far from business as usual. IFAI has conducted a variety of webinars to find out what our members are doing for their customers, their employees, their communities and the country. Member companies are openly sharing the steps they’re taking now, what issues they feel are paramount and what they anticipate in the next few months. 

Many IFAI member organizations are directly involved in manufacturing or providing inputs for PPE, and right now, numerous companies are in the process of pivoting to make face masks and shields, medical linens and other items to meet the demands of health-care
workers and consumers.

For many companies that have been experiencing work slowdowns or shutdowns, nothing is more difficult than having to lay off and/or furlough employees. Companies that remain busy face risks too. Manufacturers have reorganized their processes and procedures to mitigate the health and safety risks of employees working during the pandemic. Businesses that pivot to manufacturing new products face the risk of being left with unused supplies and unsold inventory when the demand for PPE diminishes. 

There have been challenges in getting the various parts of the supply chain to connect and become reliable and efficient. This has created the opportunity for new communication channels to help us better serve
IFAI members during this crisis. IFAI along with the National Council
of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) quickly built on existing relationships to form
a partnership to address the supply chain issues. Through our collaboration the COVID-19 Production Capacity Database was created. The database includes finished goods and input information on PPE that is now being used by both the U.S. government and private industry. 

IFAI staff also created IFAI’s COVID-19 Resource Center (www.ifai.com/covid-19). This website is a frequently updated hub that aggregates a variety of information, including government news, financial resources and companies’ offerings for products, services and equipment. Educational training is posted along with sourcing requests and opportunities. IFAI is also including information shared by our members and other industry associations. Along with NCTO and INDA, SEAMS and SPESA have been essential partners in this process. Other critical resources, such as patterns for PPE manufacturing, are on the site. IFAI will continue to provide updates on the crisis
as a trusted and valuable resource as information changes or becomes available.

There will be many questions in the months and years ahead about COVID-19: What were the lessons learned? What was the impact on manufacturing and business at large as the unthinkable becomes the new normal? The industry has come together, and existing relationships and business practices are proving to be good investments. IFAI’s long-standing government relations program through the U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute and Narrow Fabrics divisions has proven very valuable as much of our government insight has come directly through this program. IFAI is sharing the work of these divisions with members and nonmembers to help provide the best possible outcomes for our communities and industries at large. 

A great deal of industry analysis remains in the months ahead, but when COVID-19 fades from the news it’s likely that infections were better contained because of the protections offered by PPE and the ingenuity of textile professionals like you. Please stay safe and well.