Kohler Co. Utilizes Manufacturing Capabilities to Produce Critically Needed Personal Protective Equipment

Using UW Makerspace design, company pivots production to produce and donate face shields

KOHLER, Wis. (April 29, 2020) – Kohler Co., a global leader in kitchen and bath products and power systems, has pivoted design resources and manufacturing capabilities to produce and donate face shields for medical personnel battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with several other companies, Kohler’s Innovation for Good team has partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Makerspace program, which created a mask design to produce and, in turn, has helped connect medical facilities in need of protective equipment with the companies producing them. Innovation for Good is Kohler’s innovation incubator designed to develop new business opportunities that have a social purpose aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Kohler is producing the face shields in the company’s Cast Iron Foundry in Kohler, Wisconsin, as well as at its Kitchen and Bath facility in Changzhou, China, which meets FDA standards to produce healthcare products. Official production started the week of April 13th and the facilities are assembling 10,000-15,000 face shields each day, with a single Kohler associate assembling roughly 500 shield units per day. The face shields are intended for one-time use, and while they cannot fully prevent contracting specific viruses, they are an important tool to reduce the spread of infection between healthcare workers and patients. Several members of the production team in China are Kohler office staff who are volunteering their time to support relief efforts.

“It’s been both inspiring and rewarding to see how our Kohler associates across several teams and disciplines have rallied around this project,” said Mike Radloff, new product development leader at Kohler’s Innovation for Good. “From sharing resources and ideas to problem-solving logistics and production and obtaining appropriate approvals, everyone is extremely motivated to help health care workers, first responders and others who are working in the most challenging environments to help people recover and save lives.” 

Created by a team from UW HospitalUW MakerspaceDelve and Midwest Prototyping, the design is based on shields currently being used in hospitals and are made from readily available and economic materials and a scalable, assembly process.

In addition to face shield production, Kohler recently deployed the company’s 42-foot KOHLER Relief Showering Trailer to New York City where it is stationed at a temporary field hospital. The trailer serves as a showering resource for hundreds of health care professionals and volunteers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about Kohler’s relief efforts, please visit www.kohlercompany.com.