Canadian manufacturing sector mobilizes to increase PPE production
In addition to many businesses adapting to accommodate surges in demand from e-commerce, Canadian manufacturing companies are now seeing a rise in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) due to domestic supply shortages.
A wide range of manufacturers – from the automotive sector to the textile industry – have transitioned into making disinfectant products and sanitizers, or have shifted their focus to PPE production, medical testing kits and ventilators. The federal government has allocated upwards of $2 billion to the private sector to ensure more protective gear can be purchased to support frontline healthcare workers. The government has also awarded close to eight contracts with Canadian firms to help produce the goods.
For example, InkSmith, a 3D printing company in Kitchener-Waterloo, recently launched The Canadian Shield, a company that focuses solely on PPE production and supply. The company, which occupies a new 50,000 square foot facility, has been contracted by the federal government to produce ten million units of face shields by August and is expected to double its workforce to 300, providing a boost to the region’s manufacturing sector. The company also plans to expand internationally after that and is considering expanding to a second facility. General Motors (GM) already began manufacturing ventilators and face masks in the United States. Upon receiving Health Canada’s manufacturing approval, GM Canada recently announced its plan to dedicate a portion of its Oshawa plant to manufacture one million masks per month at cost. The GM Oshawa plant was selected due to its capacity as well as its clean room capacity. Since the federal government announced its strategy, about 3,000 Canadian companies have offered to meet the country’s need for PPE.
While these figures may sound promising, the Canadian industry can’t produce them fast enough to meet the demand due to rigorous inspection and testing required to meet medical standards and to avoid recalls. These challenges have put into question the consequences of Canada’s dependency on overseas manufacturing, highlighting the flaws in global supply chains as well as the need for Canada to diversify suppliers across the globe, especially as these health and safety products become increasingly essential and common household items. Canada will need to become more self-reliant, which may trigger more companies to lease additional or larger warehouse space, and permanently manufacture and supply PPE locally.