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Ohio companies continue to innovate through tough times

Posted at 6:25 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 20:47:13-04

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — Whether it be a non-profit, a for-profit, a 'Mom and Pop' shop or Fortune 500 company, businesses across Ohio have been innovating every step of the way through the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, Eaton Corp, which has its operations headquarters in Beachwood, developed alongside its partners the manufacturing capacity to churn out nearly 400,000 face shields for front-line medical workers.

Micahel Regelski, the chief technology officer and senior vice president for Eaton Corporation's electric division, said the power management company utilized its expertise and infrastructure to develop prototype face shields using 3-D printers. Those prototypes were used by local medical providers who provided feedback on possible revisions. With their input, the design of the face shields was completed and manufacturing has begun.

"We really pride ourselves on being good corporate citizens and being involved in the community," Regelski said Friday. "We thought, 'what are the things that we can do and bring to bear to really try to help the community and help our healthcare providers and try to provide valuable solutions?' That's how we started getting involved. We have a lot of expertise in knowing how to manufacture. We can leverage skills that we have in design and additive manufacturing and quickly come up with prototypes to see if we can meet some of the needs that our healthcare providers have."

Eaton collaborated with Cleveland's Manufacturing Advocacy Growth Network (MAGNET) and partnered with Thogus, a local family-owned plastic injection molding company to scale production.

The idea went from concept to production in less than two weeks, Regelski said. The implementation of the 3-D printing technology, along with the dedication from all sectors of Eaton's numerous divisions that employ nearly 100,000 people, helped to turn the product around so quickly.

"The fight in trying to produce some of these tools and some of the products for our healthcare community, it was really a true collaboration. It's what we like to call a 'one Eaton' approach," Regelski said. "The spirit and passion and the pride that everybody at Eaton has in trying to do the right thing and making the impact for our customers and community, it just comes through in spades. There is nothing like a crisis that really symbolizes how a company is able to come together and be more unified."

That sense of collaboration can be found in all sectors of Ohio's economy, regardless of the size of the business. Breweries have started making sanitizer. Retailers have started producing masks. The tribulation of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered innovation.

At Battelle Memorial Institute, based in Columbus, innovation has been a central theme of the non-profit's response to the pandemic. Battelle quickly developed new procedures that produce substantially faster results in coronavirus testing. Additionally, Battelle was awarded FDA approval last month for a new product that can disinfect N95 masks at a clip of 80,000 per day. In addition to servicing Ohio hospitals, the equipment has been shipped to other hard-hit metro areas across the country.

"Those of us that are deeply involved in all of this, we have a commitment to try to help people. That is very much the culture and spirit in a place like Battelle where our mission is to serve the greater good," said Justin Sanchez, a tech fellow for life sciences at Battelle. "This is a time where we all need to step up. This is a time where it is all hands on deck to solve a problem. We need to use our talents and our abilities and our resources to stop this pandemic."

Much like Regelski was quick to credit Eaton's partners, Sanchez was also quick to credit Battelle's partners at the state and local level.

"Everybody is all in. We're committed to making this happen," Sanchez said. “While everybody is sleep deprived... we’re coming together to solve this problem. That's really what good teams are all about. That's what we're bringing to the table here today.”

RELATED: Ohio manufacturers to create up to 1 million face shields for healthcare workers over next 5 weeks