Delight as Eastfield-based manufacturing company Duraweld win government contract to make PPE - it was phone call from wife which led to visor success

Duraweld MD Mark Yeung at the second factory siteDuraweld MD Mark Yeung at the second factory site
Duraweld MD Mark Yeung at the second factory site
When Stu Carter got a call from him wife one Friday afternoon, he thought it was  to catch up on what time she was leaving work. Before the end of the day, as operations manager for Eastfield-based manufacturing company Duraweld, he would be offering to turn over their workforce and production capacity to making d PPE - personal protective clothing - to protect NHS staff against Covid-19.

That one phone call at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March has led to the winning of a government contract to manufacture more than five million face visors in the next six months and secured the jobs of 60 people.

The company has also invested in new machinery and provided a Covid-secure environment for its workforce.

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"Duraweld usually makes plastic stationery products such as vinyl folders, plastic pouches, A4 binders etc. When the coronavirus lockdown was announced, we initially continued production, albeit with a slimmed-down workforce to maintain their safety, however, we knew demand for our products would be much reduced at least in the short term." said Stu.

His wife Emma is head of assurance and compliance at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust which was pulling out all the stops preparing for the pandemic.

"When she rang me at 4.15pm on the afternoon of Friday 27 March, Emma got straight to the point, saying, 'Stu, do you think you could produce visors for our staff to wear as part of their PPE?'

TAKE A LOOK: Duraweld makes PPE here"Knowing the huge efforts the Trust were making we were really keen to support them, so our production team immediately identified three possible visor designs online. We used a computer design package to mock up all three and had prototypes ready by 5pm."

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Two days later, Stu met Noel Scanlon, the Trust's executive director of nursing, at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

"Noel asked some of the clinical teams to test the three visors to identify the safest and most appropriate design. That afternoon, back at our Scarborough site, we quickly placed an urgent order for materials and began production with existing stock. By Tuesday 31 March, we'd made and delivered 600 visors. Over the following fortnight we supplied the Trust with 75,000 visors. The design also evolved twice during that time, based on feedback from staff and because we were working closely with the key decision-makers we were able to adapt the design very quickly to meet their needs.

"Our staff have been amazing, working day shifts, night shifts and over the Easter Bank Holiday. We're so proud of them, we're all so pleased to be helping the NHS by supplying the visors at cost and we're now also making them for other trusts. For all of us, it's been much more about being able to play a part in the current emergency and, for me personally, it's also been about supporting Emma and her colleagues as they face this enormous challenge. It's been a privilege and very humbling to be involved.

Managing director of Duraweld Mark Yeung said: "At Duraweld we like to say if it does not exist, we will design and make it.

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"In March of this year that is exactly what we did. We rapidly prototyped, developed and manufactured more than 75,000 face visors for the NHS.

"I am delighted to say that we have won a government contract to provide those nationally for the NHS.

"At a time when there is a lot of worry and serious concern about the economy it is great that we can share a good news story among the dark clouds that are unfortunately out there," he said.

"We feel like it is a brilliant vindication of the hard work and dedication that we have put in. It's brilliant that we have been recognised at a national level and also that we can contribute at a national level going forward.

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"Our manufacturing facility is located in an area of the country which is in the top 10 per cent of economically deprived areas in the UK. Creating employment for 60 people across two shifts in our area will really make a difference to the families in the community," said Mark.

Production manager Lisa Adams had been on furlough for 10 weeks and was brought back after the contact was won. "It is fantastic for the business and a place like sunny Scarborough," she said.

Noel Scanlon, of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said, "We're sourcing PPE through the national supply chain but, given the likelihood of an unprecedented and to an extent unpredictable demand for equipment it made sense to look for additional sources. Having a local supplier like Duraweld meeting our need for visors, a key item of PPE, producing a quality product with such speed, has been incredibly helpful.

"To say Stu and his colleagues stepped up would be an understatement. We've been very lucky to have found them and to have also benefited from the generosity and thoughtfulness of local educational establishments and businesses who have donated supplies from their science and other departments, such as goggles and disposable aprons and gloves. It really does feel as though local communities are right behind us."

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