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Furniture company shifts to PPE production


South Australia furniture company Design Furniture is pivoting its production capabilities to produce personal protective equipment as well as hand sanitiser.

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Joining a growing number of enterprises diversifying their business models to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, Design Furniture began creating personal protective equipment (PPE) last month.

So far it has made roughly 500 masks in a range of sizes, donating the protective gear to South Australian medical staff working in the Royal Adelaide Hospital and clinics across the state.

It has also begun creating black and white masks – with more colours set to be realised soon – for public purchase.

Design Furniture co-owner Lisa Magnera told InDaily, unlike traditional, disposable face masks, the business had created washable, fabric face coverings which could be reused.

The masks are made from Japara premium grade cotton and beeswax, and lined with a non-woven material, spun bond.

“What we usually use the cotton for is to fill out seat cushions, because obviously we’re a furniture upholstery company,” Magnera said.

“But what is interesting about this Japara cotton is it has a beeswax woven through it. And what that beeswax does, is it acts as a repellent for liquids, stains, microbes and germs and things like that.

“So whilst we’ve always used it … we thought, ‘you know what? This would be great as a face mask because it’s natural.’”

Regular and small size Design Furniture face masks.

Shifting production from sustainable chairs, one-off couches and beds to PPE was a swift decision for the company, which was sparked by a worldwide shortage of face masks in March.

At the time, South Australian healthcare workers were instructed to re-use masks as stock began running low.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government put out a call to businesses across the nation to help boost supply.

Like thousands of businesses across the country, Design Furniture was struggling to stay open.

Manger said business had slowed down in February as coronavirus swept China and it became harder to access materials.

“Then as COVID-19 started to affect Europe … we started to see shortages of fabrics as flights were cancelled and airlines grounded their aircrafts, so we were having delays and shortages,” Magnera said.

“People in the community started to get nervous and put their orders on hold.

“In the end, we had to close completely for a couple of weeks because we didn’t have the orders coming through. It was during this time that we thought to ourselves, ‘we can’t do this indefinitely, what do we do?’ And that’s when we came up with the idea of making PPE.”

Design Furniture has since made four mask sizes: extra-large, regular, small and extra-small.

“We started just making one size (for children), but we got some feedback that they were still a bit big for the kids between about two and six-years-old. So now we have a smaller size for them,” Magnera said.

It has also begun looking at ways to create gowns, caps and laundry bags for medical professionals, registering its capabilities with the Federal Government.

“We don’t really know yet if things are going to get better or worse, but we wanted to put our hand up, as an Australian manufacturer, and do what we can,” Magnera said.

“So if, in future, the need arises, we will be able to provide this on a national level as well.

“As long as there is an urgent need for PPE for frontline workers we will keep donating.”

She said as well as protective gear, the company had developed a hand sanitiser, which was in high demand across the country.

Design Furniture’s hand sanitiser is made from plant-based alcohol, aloe vera and organic essential oils.

The hand sanitiser is available in 100ml glass bottles and can be ordered along with the masks on the company’s Instagram and Facebook.

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