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The Manufacturing Sector, Emerging Heroes

14 Apr 2020


The agility, innovation and quick response of the manufacturing sector to be a part of a global interest effort has been crucial in the fight against Covid-19.

With the number of COVID-19 cases growing globally, critical equipment from PPE to ventilators and hand sanitisers are in short supply. Manufacturers like Irema, a wholly owned Irish company based in Limerick is one of many companies world-wide who are now ramping up their production lines to cope with the demand for surgical and non-surgical facemasks. Original suppliers cannot cope with such a surge in demand leading others to step up to the frontline.

The manufacturing sector can rightfully be counted as a “hero” sector during this pandemic. Those working in the sector have been classed as essential workers and work is still continuing although changes have been made on the floors to reflect the new safety and proximity regulations. The agility, innovation, quick response and willingness to be a part of a global and national interest effort has been crucial in the fight against the disease.

It’s been incredible to witness the ability of many Irish and global manufacturers to pivot their lines to produce PPE supplies in this time of need. Manufacturers in nearly every industry quickly changed operations in order to combat the crisis. Clothing manufacturers like Zara and the closer to home O’Neills Sportswear are among many who have now turned their attention and resources to producing medical gowns.

Irish Distillers, part of global drinks group Pernod Ricard was one of the first to offer its expertise and plants in order to make hand sanitising gel in partnership with Cork firm Mervue Laboratories, a nutraceutical company. Their plan swung into action with the company making the alcohol available at no cost and Mervue Labs producing at cost. This enabled the production and delivery of large-scale quantities of hand sanitiser to the HSE. In Europe, beauty and luxury goods companies like LVMH and L’Oreal are changing their production from cosmetics and perfumes to disinfectants and sanitising gel. 

While there have been calls for industries such as automotive manufacturers to help fight the pandemic, retooling their factories to produce ventilators may prove more challenging. Others like the aforementioned pharmaceutical, FMCG or clothing companies are finding it easier to adapt. However, some organisations are re-tooling their lines to provide products that they never made before. The Japanese electronics company Sharp has now re-fitted one of their TV factories in order to produce facemasks. Electronic displays are normally produced in “germ-free” environments so it would be seen as an ideal environment to make surgical masks. Dyson, best known for vacuum cleaners and hair styling tools, has now re-positioned itself to produce ventilators. While ventilators are a minor modification of the company’s existing design and technology, fan units needed for ventilators are readily available, making them the ideal company to get involved in this.

All of the above activity shows great initiative matched by even greater ingenuity by those in the manufacturing sector. Yet, while it may be their leaders who are making the end-decisions about what products to work on, it’s the engineers who ultimately make the difference. It’s the practical real-time actions on the factory floor that make these decisions a reality. Engineers across design, production, maintenance, health & safety and quality all play their part in the manufacturing sector’s battle during this pandemic.

If you are interested in either recruiting engineering professionals or want to move within the manufacturing sector, please contact our engineering team:

Cathal O Donnell in our Dublin office on + 353 1 662 1000  or email 
[email protected]

Andrew Rowley in our Cork office  on + 353 21 422 1000  or email  [email protected]