'We're really selling a life,' Shifting production to medical supplies during a global crisis
BARRIE -- A manufacturer north of Toronto has spent thousands of dollars attempting to curb the spread of COVID-19 as the number of cases continues to rise across York Region.
Last week, Building Envelope Systems Installation (BESI) paid out approximately $50,000 to retool its Concord production shop to produce plexiglass shields.
One of the company's owners, Evelina Gutenberg, says the first installations of the shields will happen this week.
"Our essential service industries are vital for everybody to keep operating," says Gutenberg.
The shields will be installed in grocery stores, banks and gas stations, "They still need to be functioning, they need to be working, and we need to make sure these employees stay as safe as possible," Gutenberg adds.
Some of the glasswork from BESI can be seen across the GTA, from the UP Express Airport in Mississauga to the Hillcrest Mall Cube on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill.
Co-owner Alex Shikhman says he came up with the idea to make the production move from glass to plexiglass shields after last week's visit to the grocery store.
"You're coming to a cashier - you're standing right in front of them talking to them," says Shikhman, "that cashier has seen hundreds of people that day. What's stopping them from spreading it to you."
Since the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, the owners say normal productivity has been down, but they're setting their bottom-line concerns aside.
"It is about doing what's good for the general community," says Gutenberg. "Without everybody there, we have no future."
Over the past week, the company says it's made protective shields for grocery stores, doctor's offices and gas stations as far as Peterborough.
Meanwhile, in Alliston, Baxter Canada has also switched gears, taking an offensive stance against COVID-19, moving away from a five-day workweek.
"We've transitioned to a 24/7 production schedule for the next four to six weeks to supply about 130 per cent capacity," says site director Tim Marini.
Baxter is a global medical equipment manufacturer with its Alliston plant supplying the majority of IV and dialysis products to the Canadian health care system.
Over the next month and a half, the plant will set their sights on producing as many IV bags as possible.
"We're making bags of saline, but we're not selling bags of saline; we're really selling a life," says Marini.