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Q&A: Sound Devices Now Making Face Shields for Health Care

Wisconsin-based manufacturer can make 5,000 per day but hopes to increase that significantly

Zach Wiedenfeld of Sound Devices shows off one of the new shields.

Sound Devices manufactures portable and installed production sound and video products for professional applications. Now the Wisconsin-based company also has begun to make face shields for healthcare workers to help protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is selling them at cost to hospitals. Radio World asked co-founder Matt Anderson about it.

Radio World: What kind of gear is involved, and how did this come about?

Matt Anderson: We’re making disposable face shields to help protect the health care workers who are on the front lines taking care of patients. The design for this shield is an open source project, which can be read about here. Luckily, we’re right near the University of Wisconsin, and these are local businesses are friends; we are indebted to them for the design.

We got on board after I read about the shortage of these in the news. I came in last Monday and asked our sales folks to call some hospitals and they verified the need, so we started buying materials that day and were producing them en masse 32 hours later.

RW: Radio station engineers know Sound Devices for audio equipment. How hard is it to adjust your capital plant and workforce to produce these types of products?

Anderson: Converting our lines was not too difficult, in that our workers and the folks who run the plant are phenomenally flexible and hard working. At present the assembly of these items is all manual, and we’re able to produce about 5,000 per day. We’re working on tooling up the assembly process to dramatically increase these numbers.

One of the most difficult aspects of making high volumes of this product is procuring enough material, especially in this unique business climate. Fortunately our purchasing folks are very determined. Last week two of them were driving from store to store throughout Wisconsin buying up all of the elastic they could find. And added to this, we have longstanding relationships with the suppliers of the foam and the plastic material as these are suppliers we use every day for gaskets etc. for our audio products.

RW: How will these products be sold or distributed?

Anderson: We are selling these products direct to hospitals at our cost to make them. Hospitals can reach out to sales@sounddevices.com. We’re also now selling them on our web store at www.sounddevices.com.

RW: What else should we know?

Anderson: It’s been a humbling experience to see everyone step up and pitch in for this cause. My engineers and I worked this entire weekend each day via Zoom, from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. on designing tooling to ramp up production. I’m happy to say that I emerged from my garage with all digits still intact and with a fully functioning “shield press.”

Though the workers at our company are normally very hard-working, they are really going to the next level — from sales, to purchasing, to production, to engineering — and absolutely no complaining, just dedication. Though this situation we’re in is terrible, it is gratifying to see how much positive human spirit can come out of such a situation.

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