TMAC UTEP Assists Nationwide Effort to Identify Medical Equipment Suppliers to Support COVID-19 Response
Last Updated on May 21, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published May 21, 2020
By Darlene Barajas
The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC), a manufacturing consulting center based at The University of Texas at El Paso, is leveraging its relationship with a stable of partners to outfit the El Paso community and others with critical supplies, such as medical masks and gowns, needed in the fight against COVID-19.
TMAC has been working diligently with organizations and businesses throughout the Paso del Norte region, as well as throughout the state and country, and connecting them with manufacturers to acquire critical personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies including gowns, N95 masks, face shields, and other related products to serve the nation’s needs as it contends with the pandemic.
COVID-19’s impact on local businesses has created shortages of medical devices and medical services. TMAC has worked to identify relevant manufacturers that can change their operations to fill this need. Along with current efforts, TMAC is currently scouting capabilities in pharmaceutical preparation, plastics, soap and cleaning compounds, medical equipment supplies, batteries, and medical device manufacturers, to gauge their ability to assist with regard to PPE shortage and gathering that information.
The supply chain scouting efforts at UTEP are managed by Amit Lopes, Ph.D., assistant professor in UTEP’s Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering (IMSE) program, and regional director of TMAC Paso del Norte (PdN), which includes six counties in southwest Texas. UTEP is the host institution for TMAC PdN, which is overseen by UTEP’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects. The TMAC PdN team at UTEP includes Tzu-Liang (Bill) Tseng, Ph.D., professor and chair of IMSE, and four trusted business advisors: Oscar Salcedo Jr., Jason Farley, Ivan Renteria, and Miguel Carrera.
TMAC has been collaborating with other MEP centers throughout the United States, the Medical Center of the Americas, Bio El Paso Juárez, Workforce Solutions Borderplex, New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s task force worked with TMAC’s state executive director, Mark Sessumes, to develop a strategy to respond to the need for PPE and initiate a plan to better position the agency for future needs. Lopes is the regional TMAC liaison to the governor’s task force team and has four “trusted business advisors” who are assisting in these efforts. Other TMAC partners include Texas Tech University, Southwest Research Institute, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), the BeeHive Fund, Lamar University and The University of Texas at Arlington.
“The overall vision for the TMAC Statewide Task Force team is to create a strategy (both short- and long-term) for a robust supply chain network centered around the themes of response, recovery, and resilience to address critical needs and minimize disruptions to incidents,” Lopes said. “The goal is for TMAC to be the owner of the statewide supplier network responsible for building a stronger customer-supplier network with necessary resources to maintain that network — enabling a stronger, more sustainable economic condition.”
TMAC is assisting companies to gain access to grants/loans to offset employee salaries and address loss of business with relevant investments. Additionally, the center supports companies as they make the adjustment toward starting manufacturing operations again in a post-COVID-19 environment. TMAC’s efforts shorten the time between when COVID-19 related products are needed by the providers and finding an organization who can manufacture it.
“Small manufacturers are valuable in this scenario because they can more quickly transition to making a different product,” Lopes said. “We had a manufacturer that was making coats that is now making gowns and masks. TMAC can do the engineering for them if they need it and help source raw materials and design the machine.
“After reading the CDC guidelines, we were able to quickly determine that masks and face shields were an incredibly important part of proper PPE when it comes to COVID-19,” said Manning McGraw, CEO of Broad River Rehab, a therapy services provider based in North Carolina. “Keeping our staff safe, at work, and caring for the residents we serve is the only way to overcome this virus. By being able to get these face shields from Advanced Paperworks Inc. with the assistance of TMAC, we were able to do just that. These face shields protect our staff as well as prolong the life of the masks we wear. I am truly appreciative!”
“The entire TMAC Paso del Norte team has dedicated themselves to regional outreach efforts for scouting relevant, potential manufacturers of critical PPE equipment to support the COVID-19 response,” Lopes said. “We are also offering needed assistance to the local manufacturers to contribute to their business recovery by guiding them to get small business grants and resources and making TMAC expertise available to help them implement new methods, processes, and technology to enable productivity and worker safety under COVID-19 guidelines. Finally, the TMAC statewide task force will develop a long-term strategy so that manufacturers are better prepared to become resilient to such disruptions in the future.”
To learn more about TMAC and manufacturers producing COVID-19 PPE resources, visit: https://tmac.org/covid-19-coronavirus-resources-for-manufacturers/.