Hickory furniture manufacturer HBF and HBF Textiles is switching gears to make cloth masks and medical gowns to help with the nationwide shortage of medical protective equipment needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HBF and other subsidiaries of HNI Corporation, a large office furniture manufacturing company, are making and donating personal protective equipment to local first responders like firefighters, health-care workers, hospice workers, hospitals and the Novant Health system, according to a news release and HBF president Dan Chong.
The Hickory HBF plant, as well as HNI plants in Iowa and New York, are making washable cloth masks to be used when possible to save N95 and surgical masks for hospital personnel in critical situations. The facilities are also producing mask covers to extend the life of N95 masks and washable and disposable medical protective gowns, the release said.
“Doing our part to help others has long been at the heart of the company’s culture,” Chong said in the release. “We have been a member of the Hickory community for 40 years and we are dedicated to supporting our local health-care workers and heroes by converting our factories to produce personal protective equipment.”
HBF is working with partners such as Valdese Weavers and Milliken to get material for the masks and gowns at a reduced cost, Chong said. The fabric is as close to N95 specifications as possible.
The company is producing about 2,000 to 2,500 masks per week.
HBF normally makes hospitality and office furniture. The factory closed for the health and safety of workers, but many employees volunteered to return to make the PPE, Chong said. About 80 percent of the HBF employees that had the skills for making masks and gowns are back in the factory doing so.
The company meets social distancing requirements from the state, according to the release.