Millennium Slate in Granville specializes in slate roofs, a business that has been deemed nonessential amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the company is retooling in an effort to assist those on the front lines.
The team is slowly getting back to work after nearly a month of furlough.
"To put as many of our 28 people back to work as possible was a major goal," said Fred Whitridge, Millennium Slate CEO.
One of those employees is Charlie Ward, a control systems engineer, who will be taking on the new task of building face shields for medical professionals responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Equipment is equipment. And manufacturing people are manufacturing people, they can manufacture almost anything," he said.
The design is unique to Millennium. The adjustable strap is made up of "hook and loop" which the company typically uses to install a slate roof.
"It was particularly right for us because we have, in house, 29 miles of hook and we probably have about five or ten miles of hoop," said Whitridge.
It's a design Millennium says fits like no other.
"We've had comments from docs on this is more comfortable because to doesn't jibe the elastic around your head," said Whitridge. "It's completely adjustable because of the hook and loop."
With donated material from suppliers and Millennium's current inventory, the company plans to make about 10,000 face shields out of the gate but hop to build much more.
"The difficulty for us is the raw plastic. The foam headpiece we can get. The adhesive, we have drums of but the clear plastic is very difficult to get," said Whitridge.
Millennium is teaming up with nearby manufacturers, including Telescope Casual Furniture, which will help cut some of the material.
"We're finding lots of things that in lots of other businesses out there are in the same situation," said Kathy Juckett, Telescope Casual Furniture's CEO.
The pandemic has proven to be disruptive but teamwork and creativity appear to be flourishing in Granville.
"If we can put the workers back to work and we're doing a product that people need to help solve this pandemic, I think it's a games changer," said Whitridge.
The company is in the process of sampling the shields free of charge to medical facilities across the New England region.