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When a manufacturing business is accustomed to turning around prototypes and welded assemblies on a dime, switching to manufacturing of PPE—personal protection equipment—isn’t that big of a stretch. That’s what the 3-Dimensional Services Group, based in Rochester Hills, Michigan, did when Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia asked the company to help produce face-shield headbands for healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fortunately, this was right up our alley,” says 3-Dimensional Chief Operating Officer, David Krajci. The company, which primarily serves the automotive, appliance and aerospace industries, specializes in prototyping and low-volume production of parts such as complete chassis and seat-frame assemblies, using metal stamping, injection molding, and precision machining to name a few. “We knew there’d be some way we could help out”, Krajci added.
As the COVID-19 crisis emerged, 3-Dimensional owner, Douglas Peterson asked his employees to join in to help. Kia wanted to produce face shields and was introduced to 3-Dimensional by the Original Equipment Supplier Association (OESA). Because 3-Dimensional’s automotive customers had largely shut down production, the business had the space and time to quickly prototype, tool, and manufacture plastic headbands, to which clear face shields would be attached by workers at the Kia plant as well as other medical devices to protect healthcare workers.
"We received the CAD data for the part design on a Monday night,” remembers Krajci. “Our designers were working from home, so they started work immediately. We ordered the material the next morning and were machining by that evening—so we were able to get production up and running in a day.”
Using Autodesk PowerMill and Moldflow helped expedite the process. “These solutions give us a lot of flexibility in terms of improving automation,” says Krajci, making it possible to decrease time from design to shop floor by as much as 40%.
In the first four weeks, 3-Dimensional manufactured more than 135,000 headbands, with plans now underway for 465,000 more with the possibility of doubling those volumes if needed. Employees are working round-the-clock shifts, with modifications to keep them safe: “We check everyone’s temperatures when they enter the building, we all wear masks and gloves, we are practicing social distancing and we’re cleaning and disinfecting and sanitizing constantly.”
For those working remotely, getting projects done also means learning new skills. “Working remotely was something we had not done before,” says Krajci, “but now 20% of us are.” “The most important thing we learned on this project is that, anything is possible when teammates are fully aligned.”
Until the day comes when 3-Dimensional can go back to its usual manufacturing work, says Krajci, people are feeling good about producing products that protect healthcare workers. “Employees are proud to help people get through this crisis,” he says. “Just knowing we're out there in the fight against COVID-19 is our reward.”
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