At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. personal protective equipment (PPE) was scarce, yet much needed. That need drove defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. to call St. Louis, Missouri-based Brentwood Plastics Inc. (BPI) for help.
Lockheed Martin wanted to know if BPI, which manufacturers custom polyethylene plastic film, could provide materials for it to produce medical isolation gowns. BPI’s president, Sam Longstreth, was confident his company could assist, and wasted no time getting products to Lockheed Martin.
“We found a roll of what we knew would meet their requirements, and it was put on a plane that night,” said Longstreth. “The film ran perfect on the test run. They then placed an order for enough film to make 110,000 gowns.”
Overall, more than 1.6 million gowns were made from BPI’s plastic in April, according to the company. BPI is currently providing plastic to five companies to produce impermeable medical gowns.
“I think that the government has said that we are never going to be in this situation again,” said Longstreth. “Everything that anybody can manufacture now is being used. But I suspect once we get around this thing, it’s going to be ‘and now build the stockpile.’”
Founded in 1962, BPI provides its plastic materials for use in a variety of sectors, including health care, food service, agriculture and construction. In addition to its PPE niche of providing film for medical gowns, BPI’s material is used in other medical supplies such as surgery drapes and ostomy bags. The manufacturer is also working with a Washington University doctor on development of a positive airflow mask.