March 28, 2020
By Sandy Foster
Of the Tribune
COVID-19 has changed many things in our lives in a very short amount of time. Adults are now working from home. Kids are completing their school year online and hospitals in our city and throughout the United States are experiencing a critical shortage of PPE, or personal protective equipment. But at one local business there is no shortage of ingenuity, courage and a willingness to help at this critical time in our nation’s history.
H&H Color Lab in Raytown has been providing print pictures to their customers for 50 years. Due to the overall transition from primarily print media to diverse photo products in the past 15 years, H&H began adding manufacturing capabilities to better service their customers. They now have many laser cutters and the ability to cut and glue leather and sew fabrics.
David Drum, Business Development Director at H&H had a simple conversation with a friend in the medical community last week. He walked away from that conversation with an understanding that our medical community is very concerned. They are running out of the personal protective equipment they desperately need if they are going to treat COVID-19 patients safely.
One of the items in short supply, David was told, is the face shield. Over the weekend, Nathan, H&H’s Product Development Specialist, used H&H equipment to build a prototype of a plastic face shield. His experiment was successful, but was there really a need? David began calling around and the next day they had their first order for 500 and two days later, H&H had an order for 70,000 face shields.
“We probably won’t make any money on the face shields, but if we can help, that’s what it’s all about,” he said in a recent phone interview.
When they got the go ahead, H&H Operations Managers Dave Brown and Lee Gabbert created the process and the next day H&H front line managers began setting up workstations to comply with current CDC guidelines. They were able to arrange 31 separate stations. “Everyone working on this project is doing so voluntarily. The employees are getting paid, but they are here because they want to help our customers. Employees who don’t feel comfortable getting out due to the pandemic are at home. We have a great group of really sharp people and that gives us many in-house capabilities,” he said.
As they were getting to work on the shields, David called the customer and told them the face shields were in process, and then asked if there was anything else they needed. The answer was a resounding yes! Face masks. So, the employees at home? “Some of them are able to help out by sewing masks.”
When asked if they will be making any other PPE items David says, “Things continue to change sometimes by the hour. We just don’t know. Face shields. Masks. Maybe gowns. COVID-19 visual communication and signage – It’s all going to depend on the need of essential businesses and the supply chain. It is very difficult to get plastic and elastic right now. There is a big shortage of those items.”
He went on to say that they are in contact with other labs who could potentially use what they have and pivot their business model for such a time as this. “It takes three skill sets to make something happen quickly,” he explained. “The ability to see the opportunity and need. The ability to organize well and execute a lean process, and lastly, having the manpower willing to put their hands to work and get busy. We have all three at H&H Color Lab.”
David said H&H looks to do the right thing in the right way in this and every endeavor they undertake.