Protecting frontline workers against the threat of Covid-19 has been the catalyst for The Manufacturing Assembly Network
(MAN), which consists of nine manufacturers and an engineering design agency, to launch a new product.
MAN, which employs over 2,000 people across 21 factories, has invested more than £30,000 into the design and manufacture of the manKIND Visor, an easy to assemble and reusable visor that is more comfortable than those currently available.
Backed by expertise from the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), the collective took just six weeks from initial concept and prototyping to create a bespoke tool at Barkley Plastics able to produce 500,000 units every year.
The first 20,000 are being donated to charitable causes, with South Warwickshire NHS Trust, New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, Support Staffordshire and the Pen Museum in Birmingham among the first beneficiaries.
The manKIND visor will then be sold directly to healthcare organisations, schools, retailers and businesses looking to safely return to work.
Austin Owens, founder of Grove Design and the driving force behind the project, said: “We initially started 3-D printing and distributing a few visors to help the NHS, but quickly realised we needed a more robust production method to keep up with demand.”
“This is when we approached other members in the MAN Group to look at options and came up with the plan to design and develop our own version, tapping into Barkley Plastics’ toolmaking and moulding expertise and the collective’s supply chain capability for sourcing the right materials and distribution.”
He continued: “There was no point just coming up with a similar product to those already out there. Instead our visor is lightweight, easy to assemble with a push clip feature, suitable for repeated use, can be easily cleaned (the headband can even be put in a dishwasher) and includes a full peak for better protection.
“Comfort was also a priority and this is reflected in the inclusion of a ‘stretch’ headband that removes the need for a foam band and elasticated straps. Importantly, the user also has space to wear a face mask underneath it and the visor fits a variety of head sizes, making it suitable for many children.”
Central to the success of the manKIND visor was the development of the mould tool and this challenge was taken up by Birmingham-based Barkley Plastics.
It took five toolmakers, including a young engineer who had just completed his apprenticeship, three weeks to come up with a solution, with the most intricate part being the area that makes the adjustable strap – not usually seen in mainstream visors. The final tool will last for millions of parts and can produce between 8,000 and 12,000 units per week.
Matt Harwood, Barkley Plastics business development manager, said: “This is a fantastic effort from the MAN Group and shows what can be achieved in a short time-frame when manufacturers pool resources and expertise. The first 20,000 are being delivered now to frontline workers and this will hopefully go a long way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and protect lives.
“The way our visor has been designed should also make wearing them for longer periods slightly easier and, we know from feedback received from medical professionals, this will be a very welcome feature.”
With nearly all 20,000 donated items ready for dispatch, Grove Design and pressings specialist Brandauer are now taking the manKIND visor commercial and making it available to NHS Trusts, the healthcare sector, retailers, leisure and manufacturers who cannot socially distance.
From just £1.87 per visor depending on minimum order quantity, it offers a high quality, comfortable and cost-effective option to protect frontline staff and can be purchased via www.mankindvisor.co.uk
, through Brandauer’s eBay page and a growing number of distributors.
One of the first charitable recipients was South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, which will be receiving 10,000 visors in total.
Rachel Williams, associate director of operations at the Trust, said: “We are extremely grateful to the Manufacturing Assembly Network for using its skills and expertise to provide our frontline workers with manKIND visors that have helped protect themselves and our patients during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It is very humbling to see how local organisations have come together to help the NHS at this difficult time.”