Outdoor Research has pledged to start producing masks for medical workers at a substantial clip—200,000 a day by June, according to an announcement the company made Monday. To do so, the gear and apparel brand will convert its Seattle factory to comply with FDA Class II guidelines, meaning it will be able to produce surgical masks and the much-needed N95 masks, in short supply across the nation, for workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
“Our 39-year history of rapidly developing cutting-edge outdoor, military, and tactical products provides Outdoor Research the ability to quickly shift to supporting the personal protective needs of the medical community,” CEO Dan Nordstrom said in a statement announcing the changes. "We are working with state and local officials to better protect our employees in this environment as we ramp up production in the following days and weeks.”
The exact timeline for ramping up production is still unclear, but the company's announcement has promised 140,000 ASTM level-3 (high-barrier) masks per day by April/May; 50,000 N95 masks per day by May/June; and "thousands" of ASTM level-1 (low-barrier) masks per day by an unspecified date.
To facilitate the drastic change in output, the factory purchased five new machines, one to manufacture surgical masks, two to manufacture molded N95 respirators, and two to manufacture folded N95 respirators, as well as additional equipment to test the N95s. An entire floor of the facility will be converted and used solely for mask production.
"We have made significant resource allocations to this over the last three weeks," said Jason Duncan, head of tactical innovation and CSR for the company. "We felt we needed to lean in on this due to our unique domestic capabilities. We feel that we can offer a unique perspective due to our quick-pivot raw material, design, and engineering teams."
Asked if the company will start making other PPE items in addition to masks, Duncan told SNEWS, "Our goal for now is to produce surgical masks and N95 respirators. We may move toward other PPE in the future, but that depends on needs and the course of this rapidly changing situation."
To date, no Outdoor Research employee has tested positive for coronavirus. The company states that it has "strict daily standard operating procedures for entering buildings, including adequate employee spacing, sanitizing hands and workstations every hour, employee temperature monitoring, and utilizing face coverings."