BURLINGTON, Vt.—After waiting for machinery it ordered in July to arrive, AirBoss of America Corp.'s latest manufacturing plant is up and running, turning out chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear gloves for the military and first responders.
Four new presses were finally set up and began running in January with a crew of about 20. The Burlington factory is operating with two shifts to help handle orders for CBRN gloves, according to Robert L. Hagerman, president and CEO of the Newmarket, Ontario-based company.
A grand opening and ribbon cutting at the site was held Feb. 17.
AirBoss' newest manufacturing facility, which has the capability to mold military products, gives the company four plants, two that principally custom mix rubber and two that make products, most of which are used by first responders or the military. At least one of the mixing operations also can produce military and first response offerings.
Hagerman said the firm wanted to add a CBRN product plant in the U.S. as part of its defense division—which specializes in hand, foot and respiratory wear used for CBRN protection—because the country's defense department is its biggest customer and orders have been increasing during the last two years.
Once the U.S. military has approved AirBoss' next generation of CBRN overshoes, they will be produced at the plant, which AirBoss has been planning to add for more than a year, he said.
Unlike the popular CBRN boots AirBoss currently makes, the new line of overshoes will be injection molded without seams, he said. For years the firm has hand-stitched its military overshoes, primarily at its Acton Vale, Quebec, facility.
The new molded overshoe has been approved in France, and Canada also is reviewing the product. However, Hagerman noted, the U.S. military likes AirBoss' stitched boot “because they don't have any problems with it.”
The Burlington factory, which currently spans 20,000 square feet, could double or triple in size if AirBoss gets a new contract for the molded boots, which cost less but are as effective as the stitched variety, he said. That can cut costs for both the manufacturer and the buyer, he said.
At that point, the plant could double or triple its present size, another 12 presses would be needed and the work force would be increased by as many as 50.