Employees at Heritage Sleep Concepts in Armuchee are shifting gears from manufacturing beds to churning out protective masks for the local healthcare industry.

Frankie Beck said his plan is to make sure he’s got enough bedding inventory to meet orders, but devote as much attention as possible to making the masks.

They’re shooting to produce about seven masks about every four minutes and the company has ordered seven additional commercial sewing machines.

That’s just the starting line.

Once the operators learn the job, Beck said they’ll be able to go even faster in the future, perhaps doubling their output.

There’s an ample supply of the appropriate fabric already in stock and the plan is to use the nonskid material that is typically stapled to the underside of a mattress over the box springs.

“We want to be able to do this as efficiently as possible,” Beck said. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to step in and help the community.”

The idea of switching over had Beck in South Georgia Wednesday to look at a machine that would allow for even quicker production. The cost of that equipment wasn’t worth the few extra masks as compared to what he can produce with traditional commercial sewing machines.

Floyd Medical Center initially contacted Beck and expressed the potential need for upwards of 500 to 1,000 masks a day.

“All we can do is try to get a system in place to be able to meet that kind of need,” Beck said.

Other healthcare firms also have been calling for information about the availability of masks. However, Beck said he wants to hold off for a while until he can get a better gauge on his capacity.

The hospital has a large enough supply of masks for at least another month, FMC President Kurt Stuenkel said, but that may change if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to grow.

The type of masks that Heritage has been contacted about are surgical masks to protect healthcare workers from the splash of any bodily fluids during a procedure, Stuenkel said.

“Everybody wants to chip in,” Beck said. “”We’re just happy to be able to do our part.”

Beck also said he got a call Wednesday from a large healthcare organization that is seeking hundreds of additional mattresses.

“They asked me how many I could provide and I told them about 1,500 a week,” Beck said.

So he put in a bid on that and is waiting to see what happens. If he is successful with that bid, he said he is likely to be able to bring back several workers that were laid off a week ago.

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