Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–With the demand for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders remains high, HNI began producing a variety of products meant to fill these gaps. Now, in full production, HNI has the ability to produce several types of PPE quickly to meet local and national needs.

President of the HON company, Brandon Bullock, shared that a desire from company members at all levels to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic led the company to shift production to these items. “The enthusiasm is pretty organic at both HON and HNI,” he said. “It feels consistent to our culture; we feel very pleased and excited to do this.”

HNI first ventured into PPE production with N-95 mask covers. After receiving a request for some, Engineering Manager at HNI Seating Steve Slach explained that members came up with an effective pattern in a day and found they could produce them quickly.

As HNI heard about other needs, they began making reusable face masks and both disposable and reusable isolation gowns. While HNI in Muscatine leads the pack in terms of PPE production, HNI’s locations in New York and North Carolina have also begun producing PPE as well. Together, the three locations can produce up to 1,000 masks daily, and plan to make 10,000 reusable and 20,000 disposable isolation gowns by July.

Additionally, HNI assisted several other organizations with PPE production by lending them their facilities. So far, HNI has assisted various groups in cutting pieces for face shields and replacing stiff elastic on older but unused and clean N-95 masks. “The needs are dynamic,” said Vice President and General Manager of Production Strategy Jason Hagedorn.

Currently, the PPE HNI produces goes to the regions its workers come from, Muscatine, Johnson, and Scott Counties locally, and Wayland, New York and Hickory, North Carolina, near their other locations. Through the work of the HNI charitable foundation, HNI has donated the PPE or sold it at cost.

Several local groups have already benefited from HNI’s PPE. Doug Cropper, President and CEO, Genesis Health System, stated: “Genesis Health System needs great partners like HNI. Any products we can find or produce locally assist us in providing the best care possible for or patients while keeping our employees safe. Local products also can help us avoid delays in shipping or the possibility of shortages.”

Along with producing PPE, HNI has also shifted production to support the way people work during the pandemic, both now and as companies transition back to onsite work. Bullock outlined that HNI has started producing and marketing work from home products, as well as practical healthcare items (such as easily cleaned dividers for waiting rooms), and healthy workplace furniture (including freestanding panels to divide workplaces and temperature check stands).

Through their various efforts, HNI hopes to help keep Muscatine and the other communities they work in safe. With what Bullock describes as a “roll up your sleeves leadership culture,” they plan to continue to find ways to protect people as the pandemic continues and evolves.

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