Industrial materials maker DuPont is doubling production of protective garments it makes from its Tyvek material to about 30 million a month to help meet increased demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The spread of the pandemic across Europe and the United States has led to a worldwide scramble for protective masks, gowns and gloves worn by healthcare and other workers battling to curb the spread of the virus. Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security estimated this month that a single 100-day COVID-19 wave would create a need for 321 million more isolation gowns, such as those made by Dupont, in the United States alone.
Before the coronavirus crisis, the global market for personal protective equipment (PPE) was valued at about US$ 40 billion annually, with Dupont & US peers Honeywell International Inc and 3M Co among the biggest players. That will now increase.
“We’re producing up to almost two times the number of garments per month to help support the demand that’s currently in front of us,” John Richard, vice president of DuPont’s safety business said. DuPont’s Tyvek, a fabric used in gowns and coveralls for protective use, has been a silver lining for the company as it faces steep declines in demand for its products in the auto sector and other industries hammered by the virus outbreak.
The company pulled its full-year forecast, but estimated first-quarter profit would top Wall Street estimates on demand for products such as Tyvek and those used in water filtration. The industrial giant, a top player in the PPE market with other products such as protective gloves, flame-resistant and chemical protective clothing, said everything it was producing was being sold promptly. The company expects the heightened demand to continue at least until later this year as industries resume operations and bring back workers using additional safety measures.
DuPont, which makes Tyvek in Richmond, Virginia and Luxembourg, has re-purposed its manufacturing operations and simplified some designs to eke out more pieces per square area of the fabric. Dow, part of the erstwhile DowDupont conglomerate before a split last year, has also started making sanitizers and face shields to meet growing demand.