April 10, 2020 1:30 PM, EDT

Commercial Vehicle Suppliers Find Ways to Support Medical Personnel

SearsEmployees at Sears Seating work on medical gear. (Sears Seating)

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Sears Seating, Dana Inc. and Cummins Inc. — three of the oldest companies in the nation that typically supply the trucking industry — separately announced they are repurposing their efforts to create products and provide material for medical personnel battling the novel coronavirus.

The companies took the steps as they were dealing with protecting their employees at work and, in some cases, have suspended production of their typical products.

“There is no business model required for doing the right thing,” said James Sears, CEO of Sears Seating, a family-owned business started in 1855.

His company had enough material on hand to produce 3,000 gowns and 5,000 masks. Team members refined the processes to make up to 200 gowns or 500 masks per day, according to the Davenport, Iowa-based company.

“Through the collaboration of Sears Seating’s engineers, expert sewers and hospital staff, we are able to answer our community’s call for help. I could not be more proud of the team,” Sears said.

Locally made products help avoid delays in shipping or the possibility of shortages, Genesis Health System CEO Doug Cropper said.

Said Pat Shouse, president of Trinity Health Foundation: “Their work to help build personal protection equipment supplies for health care teams at Trinity and all regional providers exemplifies the high integrity and generous spirit of our great community.”

Sears Seating is a global supplier of suspension and nonsuspension seating for the over-the-road truck, construction, agriculture, forestry, industrial and turf care markets. Its seats became standard in all Mack Anthem trucks in 2018.

At Dana Inc., based in Maumee, Ohio, and founded in 1904, the focus is on creating open-source designs for protective equipment, using 3-D printers and leveraging its supply chain.

Dana and its engineering team worked with Toledo hospitals to design and test face shields and patient enclosures. It posted those open-source designs to its website.

“At Dana, we have a motto: People Finding a Better Way,” Ryan Laskey, vice president of commercial vehicle drive and motion systems, said of the company that was founded in 1904. “But this is more than a motto; it truly illustrates our company culture. So when our team heard of the shortage of personal protective equipment, they quickly went to work to find solutions.”

Using 3-D printers at its Advanced Manufacturing Center, Dana prints pieces for the face shields and has partnered with local high schools, Imagination Station, and the University of Toledo to source, produce and assemble the shields. The group is delivering 100 per day, and hopes that by making the designs open source these numbers can rapidly increase.

Additionally, the team has designed and tested an intubation box to partially enclose a patient, which helps to provide an additional layer of protection for hospital staff. Nearly three dozen have been delivered to local hospitals.

Dana also reported it is leveraging its global supply network to streamline the delivery of gloves, gowns, glasses, shoe covers and masks.

Dana’s commercial vehicle offerings include axles, tire-pressure management, seals, gaskets, engine oil cooling and exhaust gas heat recovery.

Meanwhile, Cummins Inc., founded in 1919, donated material typically used in its air, fuel and lube filtration products for heavy-duty diesel engines.

It found the material also can be used in the N95 respirator masks worn by health care professionals to filter harmful airborne particles that can spread COVID-19, according to the Columbus, Ind.-based company.

The first mask prototypes using Cummins’ donated media were assembled by University of Minnesota teams as part of an initiative to provide masks to M Health Fairview and other Minneapolis-based health care systems.

“Since the arrival of the filtration media, we have been able to make rapid progress, and we now believe we have several viable mask options, including both a disposable and reusable option,” said Jakub Tolar, medical school dean at the University of Minnesota. “These designs show real promise in keeping our health care workers safe should standard medical supplies of N95 masks no longer be available.”

The material also is used in Cummins’ NanoNet and NanoForce filtration media, which uses DuPont’s hybrid membrane material. An independent engine maker, Cummins is the largest supplier of Class 8 engines in the U.S. market.

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