In March, the Yorktown, Ind. component manufacturer Mursix was in the midst of a year-long business downturn due to a decline in production of automotive industry parts.
Less than two months later, Mursix has transformed itself into a major manufacturer of personal protective equipment (PPE), making 500,000 disposable face shields a week for hospitals and nursing homes all over the U.S. and Mexico.
The drastic change has taken hard work, sacrifice, creativity, and innovation.
Mursix co-owner Susan Murray Carlock, a former ER nurse, was looking for ways to further diversify into the medical industry when the pandemic hit the U.S. At that time, about 10 percent of the company’s business consisted of manufacturing components for the medical industry, including respiratory-assist devices, vital sign monitoring devices and hospital beds. And, in a move that proved prescient, Mursix had recently invested in a new 3D printer for rapid prototyping.
A hospital system in Michigan contacted Mursix in March about making face shields. Murray Carlock and her team of engineers worked over a weekend to develop a medically compliant prototype that went into production only days later. Sourcing materials to produce the face shields was a “scavenger hunt” initially, Murray Carlock said, but soon Mursix built solid relationships with reliable suppliers.
The automotive lines were retooled to produce the polyester face shields, which are then hand-assembled on-site.
Mursix partnered with volunteer pilot organizations that transported thousands of Mursix face shields to hospitals across the country during the height of the pandemic in April.
To produce the disposable, latex-free face shields, Mursix is using a Mitsubishi CO2 laser to fabricate tools for stamping and a Mitsubishi wire EDM to cut and punch die steels, pad inserts, and die chases.
Initially, Mursix used a hand-cut template and stapled elastic to it. Since then, it has automated the process and uses rivets to attach the elastic. “The creativity that has come out of this is incredible,” said Murray Carlock. “We felt called to help and make a difference and we couldn’t have done it without Mitsubishi.”
The company is running two shifts, seven days a week in its 250,000-square-foot facility, and called back the 20 employees who were laid off in January. Its staff of 200 is working on-site and following all public health protocols.
Mursix has landed major contracts to produce millions of face shields over the next three years for hospitals and nursing homes and to replenish the national supply.
“This has been a game-changer for us,” Murray Carlock said. “We were down 15 percent just a few weeks ago and now we are up 60 percent. We are at 40 percent on our automotive line and over 100 percent on our medical line. We couldn’t have done it without our Mitsubishi equipment.”