Hanging on the wall of our equipment manufacturer partners in Nashville, Tennessee, is a sign in big bold letters that reads: “TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. EVERY HOUR COUNTS IN SAVING LIVES.” That is exactly the mantra and mindset our Global Products Team adopted for Owens & Minor to win a $29.3 million Technology Investment Agreement (TIA) with the Department of Defense (DoD). The cash infusion was then used to build the assets needed to ramp up production of HALYARD-branded N95 respirators to fulfill the widespread demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Five machines of our own proprietary design were custom built by our partners in Nashville, then shipped and installed in Del Rio, Texas, within a warehouse site that was expanded into a production facility to house and run the new machines.
The mantra carried through every phase of this project, and the Global Products Team took it to heart, slashing through timelines and completing key milestones in less than half the normal timeframe. For perspective, the team that submitted the proposal for the award (including Julie Hale, Director, National Accounts; Jason Burnham, Global Products Marketing Director, Facial Protection; Tim McCarter, Associate Director of Capital Engineering; and Candido Walle, Plant Manager – Acuna/Del Rio) scoped out the project in less than 72 hours, which normally would be a one to six-month exercise. And once we won the award, it took roughly 10 weeks from placing the order for the machines to producing masks, a process that typically takes 24 weeks.
“We had to shift our normal mindset. We couldn’t look at this timeline as we normally do, on a scale of days or weeks. For every minute we delay, that’s hundreds of masks we could be making. We couldn’t delay decisions, we had to move forward,” said Mike Tuck, Vice President, Global Product Supply. Adding to the already compounded list of challenges created by a reduced timeline, all teams involved had to execute the project while working remotely at the height of the pandemic.
At the beginning of the project, no one was flying anywhere,” said Eric Goodell, Senior Mechanical Engineer, Global Products. “Normally, I would travel to the site in Del Rio to spec out the project, everything from taking measurements of the space to electrical plans, but I wasn’t able to do that this time around. We relied on Luis Ortiz, the Warehouse Manager in Del Rio, to help us. He measured the space, took pictures, and met with the electrical engineers and contractors on-site. He took on responsibilities that were way beyond his normal role until we were able to travel to the site a month later.”
Similarly, the team collaborated remotely with our equipment manufacturers to build the machines. “Our partner built the machines and worked with us running trials to create our first sample masks,” said Eric. “Once we gave it the thumbs up, they partially dismantled it, shipping the machine in pieces down to Del Rio for us to install. They pulled out all the stops, working 24/7 to help us get it done.” As of October 1, the site in Del Rio has produced millions of masks, a feat that has helped a great deal to combat the global pandemic. Thank you to all the teammates who gave it their all to make these masks in record time.
Key Teammates for the Del Rio Project:
- Eric Goodell – Project Manager (Alpharetta)
- Candido Walle – Plant Manager (Acuna/Del Rio)
- Tim McCarter – Director – Capital Engineering & Packaging (Alpharetta)
- Luis Ortiz – Facility Manager (Del Rio)
- Marco Genera – Operations Manager (Del Rio)
- Joe Hernandez – Maintenance Manager (Del Rio)
- Bruno Gomez – Quality Lead (Acuna/Del Rio)
- Enrique Faz – Mechanical Engineer (Acuna/Del Rio)
- Patrick Flaherty – Electrical Engineering Technical Lead (Alpharetta)
- Alice Cox – Procurement (Alpharetta)
- Fernando Trujillo – Logistics and Stores (Del Rio)
- David Harrington – Operations Consultant (Alpharetta)
- Ivan Ortiz – Equipment Expert (Del Rio)
- Pedro Quistian – Equipment Expert (Del Rio)
- Rick Tucker – VP – Operations (Alpharetta)
- Sharon Chang – Global Operations Category Director (Alpharetta)
Departments involved in Del Rio Project:
- Alpharetta – Capital Engineering, Packaging, Operations, Procurement, Planning, R&D, HR, and IT
- Acuna – Engineering, Operations, Maintenance, Planning, Procurement, HR, and IT
- Chris Lowery
- Mike Tuck
- Alex Hodges
- JD Hurdle
- Daniel Wright
- Gabe Vazquez