Indy Medical Mask Producer Responds to Pandemic

Inside Indiana Business

INDIANAPOLIS – A company on the west side of Indianapolis has ramped up production exponentially, serving customers around the world, in the battle against COVID-19. Pulmodyne Inc., which manufactures airway and respiratory medical devices such as masks used in conjunction with ventilators, says it is expanding into an adjacent 7,000-square-foot building, where pre-assembly work will take place.

The company also recently hired 25 temporary workers, bringing its staff to 120 people, and plans to add 50 more production employees to keep up with demand.

“Our devices are designed to avoid intubation,” says Andy Shurig, executive director of Pulmodyne.

The company ships products around the globe and saw the rapid spread of the coronavirus even before it hit the U.S. and Indiana.

“The last week of February, we saw a big spike coming from Europe, especially Italy,” says Shurig.

Once the disease hit the U.S., demand for its medical masks exploded. “We’ve seen a massive spike in sales,” says Shurig. “Our business is up 600%.”

The flu season is typically the company’s busiest time of the year. The pandemic has pushed demand for the products dramatically higher.

“In a month, we’ve doubled our output. And I’m trying to do that again in the space of another month,” says Fred Boyer, production manager for Pulmodyne.

Boyer says the company is familiar with market fluxes, but this level is unprecedented as Pulmodyne is shipping 100,000 products a month.

“We’re continuing to get very large orders today,” says Boyer. “Everyone needs it right now. The desperation is out there.”

A big factor for Pulmodyne is the supply chain. It depends on 50-70 vendors for a variety of parts to produce its masks.

“We got some great vendors and God bless them,” preached Boyer. “When this started to unfold, we didn’t know what would be considered essential.”

Pulmodyne questioned whether its suppliers from other states would be classified that way.

“We didn’t know if a company that sold “O-rings” rings would be essential. They’re essential to us,” says Boyer. “Polybags and boxes, they matter just as much as every piece of the part we’re building.”

Shurig says he’s heard from companies that Pulmodyne had previously never done business.

“Even though our volumes are out of control, sales are out of control, but we probably turned down $10 million worth of business,” says Shurig. “As much as Fred is doing a herculean effort, doubling and doubling again, we’re nowhere close to keeping up with demand.”

Boyer says the company is operating 24 hours a day. He said initially it was doing voluntary overtime. But now it’s necessary.

The veteran production manager says workers who are assembling the units are under pressure to fill orders, but they seem to understand the mission.

“Everybody what needs to be done, our role in this, how important we are. It gives us a great sense of purpose,” says Boyer. “I’ve been doing this a long, long time. And I don’t know that I if ever been more stressed, and yet more purposeful than I do right now.”

Boyer says even when the pandemic begins to wane, he expects demand will continue as governments stockpile their products for future outbreaks. For workers, that means jobs, once considered temporary, may turn into full-time positions.  

“We have orders in house to last until the end of the year,” says Boyer. “That’s been our crisis; trying to get it out quick enough.”

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