Clark Rubber manufactures PPE face shields

By Sarah Stowe | 14 Aug 2020 View comments

Clark Rubber’s famous foam is now helping in the battle to beat Covid-19 as the iconic Aussie retailer has shifted a small portion of its network to manufacturing PPE.

CEO Anthony Grice said “We’re an industrious Aussie powerhouse, and we looked for ways to pivot in a volatile situation. We saw an opportunity with our specialised area in foam, and designed our own face shield.”

It was Derek Geel, the franchisee at Kiwana Waters in Queensland, who was the ‘go-to’ for the face shield design.

“He’s a great innovator and product designer and he’s worked on a number of projects with us,” said Grice.

Franchisees at the Nunawading and Preston stores in Victoria joined Kawana Waters in adding a small production line to their retail business, explained Matthew Nash, Clark Rubber’s general manager merchandise.

“We reviewed what equipment and products we had at our disposal across our locally-owned franchise network of 60 stores, along with the supply chains we already have in place,” he explained.

“One of our stores already had an industrial sewing machine and has increased the number of hours that machinery is being used. One store even found an employee that had specific sewing skills that will allows them to increase production once their sewing machine is set up in store.

“The key focus is to ensure we keep our teams busy and working.”

With 18 stores in Victoria, including 11 in Melbourne, the lockdown 2.0 has “impacted us substantially”, Grice said. Stores in shutdown zones are trading online, offering click and collect or delivery, and the addition of PPE adds another element.

Grice told Inside Franchise Business Executive “Clark Rubber’s famous for providing solutions, good quality products. And this was an opportunity to further support our franchisees and our staff. We’ve been proud of keeping our teams on board,” he said.

Clark Rubber turns its hand to producing face shields | Inside Franchise Business Executive

Clark Rubber turns its hand to producing face shields | Inside Franchise Business Executive

It’s been an opportunity to work with existing and new suppliers to source material and provide specialised activities including cutting of the PVC materials for clear face shield material.

“The design is lightweight and very comfortable to wear, with the inclusion of our foam inserts. The design is easy to disinfect through the use of disinfecting wipes with our combination of elastic and hook and loop fasteners, making them multi-use as opposed to disposable,” said Nash.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved face shields will be branded as Clark Rubber PPE, providing a low-cost solution to meet expected demand throughout the community.

Nash said “We needed a low-cost solution that we can make locally in big volumes. Some solutions out there involving technologies such as 3D printing simply can’t provide the volume required in a timely manner.

“We can produce up to 1,000 a week, ensuring continuity of stock with any large volume requirements, spread across the network we can achieve volumes of 60,000 a week, and we could probably help push more out if needed.” 

The retail chain “jumped at the chance” to help Australians fight the pandemic, he said.

“Sales via the website will begin today to hospitals, medical professionals and the general public. We have already secured several orders, working directly with health authorities and hospitals in the Melbourne region.”