NEWMARKET, Ontario—AirBoss of America Corp.'s defense group continues to carry a heavy load during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, the company has proven that it's up to the task—thanks in part to a solid, versatile work force, a group of adaptable plants and the merger of the firm's defense operation with Critical Solutions International Inc., creating Airboss Defense Group, at the beginning of January.
Since March, the business has been awarded several large, medium and smaller contracts from various entities within the U.S government and other countries to produce a variety of respirator systems and personal protection equipment to combat the virus.
In addition, the company has been selected to provide a variety of different survivability offerings to primarily military and government customers, separate from the COVID-19 orders.
AirBoss rushed into the battle with the coronavirus in late March when it received a $96.4 million contract from the U. S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for the manufacture of 100,000 FlexAir Powered Air Purifying Respirator systems, 600,000 filters and related accessories in a short time span.
It was a hard order to fill, but the operations team at AirBoss "was able to execute a nearly impossible task because FEMA needed the 100,000 PAPRs in 100 days in order to quickly get this critical PPE to hospitals around the country," said Chris Bitsakakis, president and chief operating officer of the firm.
"We dedicated over 40 people to manage the global supply chain as well as the production ramp-up across five AirBoss factories," he said. "Our production employees (throughout the company) stepped up and were willing to put themselves at risk during the height of the pandemic in order to protect the doctors and nurses on the front lines.
"It was really amazing to witness the dedication and commitment. We are extremely proud of what our employees accomplished and continue to accomplish as we replenish the national stockpile."
The Newmarket-based company successfully completed filling the FEMA contract at the end of July. It makes its PAPR systems at the company's plants in Landover, Md., and Auburn Hills, Mich.
High level of defense
AirBoss Defense Group's FlexAir PAPR system is compact and lightweight with an onboard lithium-ion battery installed in a waist-mounted blower unit. The design permits the use of two high efficiency particulate filters at a time providing protection against particulates, aerosols and biohazards, offering a high level of defense against viruses like COVID-19, according to the company.
Wearers of the system are protected by having contaminated air purified by filtration media mounted on the system blower and delivered by a lightweight breathing hose to the user's head cover, the firm said.
In late July, AirBoss Defense Group received another large order from the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response for the manufacture of 50,000 PAPR systems, 3 million high efficiency filters and related accessories, including spare protective hoods, for delivery to the Strategic National Stockpile.
That contract is expected to be worth about $121 million. Shipments began in the third quarter and will continue through the balance of 2020 into the first quarter of 2021. Gren Schoch, chairman and CEO of AirBoss, said it is the largest single order the defense products group has received to date for the manufacture and supply of protective products.
In addition to the Health and Human Services award, the defense group received a $2.55 million sustainment order from the Veterans Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for 60,000 high efficiency filters and 20,000 protective hoods to establish a contingency stockpile of consumables to combat the coronavirus. The contract was fulfilled in August.
On Oct. 5, AirBoss announced that its defense group had been awarded $22 million in contracts for various survivability products from multiple parties in North America and globally.