A tenant of the Automotive Supplier Park (ASP) in Rosslyn, PolyGen, is one of the companies providing solutions to the COVID0-19 Pandemic. PolyGen has joined the band of factories in the automotive sector that are modifying their production lines to produce components that will assist in the fight against the pandemic. The company had previously produced plastic parts for automotive components.
Mr. Lance Schultz, CEO for the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) which is responsible for the ASP says “this is a clear indication that the automotive industry is ready to participate in the manufacturing of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE). The agility of our stakeholders in diversifying their production is exemplary in responding to the country’s medical and economic needs.”
Co-owner and General manager of the company Mr. Wilhelm Roets said they made the change when the lockdown was announced and saw what other countries were doing. Their partner company which specializes in product design and engineering initially approached the University of Pretoria with a design for a CPAP machine. They pointed out that their most pressing requirement was for PPE for their frontline staff, specifically face shields.
Currently these were being 3D printed, but with the quantities required, an industrialized solution was required to provide adequate protection.
Roets says “We then reacted immediately and collaborated with the University to design an Injection Moldable face shield to their requirements. One that could be used by medical professionals.”
PolyGen had to make a few changes to accommodate the production of the face shield. The Company already had the injection molding machines in place and enough space to assemble and warehouse the product. Tooling for the new product took approximately 3 weeks, and importantly for the team, Polygen was able to bring much of its staff back to work.
However, the production of the face- shield is not without its challenges. Roets says “The biggest challenge was setting up the supply chain in a lockdown business environment. Finding what seem to be simple supplies became a difficult task, especially in the beginning.” Securing raw material in a very dynamic market and maintaining cashflow also became a challenge.
The response to the product has been positive and it is now in high demand. PolyGen initially produced stock almost exclusively for medical practitioners. Roets says the product is of high quality and most industries are looking for a cost-effective product to operate during lockdown. He said the company is now moving its focus towards industries that are ramping up in phases. They are getting enquiries from all over the country from various industries including farmers, car service centres to pharmacies. The company has also designed a new version for small children. They are working with some schools to develop a product that could be used is classroom environment. PolyGen hopes to have the product available when schools start to re-open. The product also comes with the option to buy a replacement shield, the headpiece is of such quality that it can be re-used. The shield can be replaced if it is scratched or damaged.
PolyGem is currently at the capacity of 4000 units per day with a second set of tooling ready to double the capacity if the demand increases to such a level. The medical practitioner version sells for about R35, the standard version sells for about R25 and the kiddies version to sell for around R12.
The Automotive Supplier Park
The Automotive Supplier Park is a landmark industrial park belonging to the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) based in Rosslyn in the northern part of Pretoria. The park spans 130 hectares and houses a tenant pool comprising mainly of component manufacturers and suppliers to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). Automotive component manufacturers, suppliers and service providers benefit from the synergies and cost saving opportunities created by the locality of the Automotive Supplier Park. The AIDC develops factories to tenant specification on a long-term lease basis. The ASP is a benchmark project for the country and the continent at large and has contributed significantly to the global competitiveness of the South African automotive industry.