Cambridge factory to be Ontario’s major surgical mask supplier

Cambridge will play a major role in the integration and production of supply for the Ontario government’s growing need of personal protective equipment.

PRIMED Medical Products will hire 40 to 50 people to launch the manufacture of ASTM-rated surgical masks and N95 respirators in the city, according to the company. The manufacturing complex is a 50,000-square-foot facility located at 105 Boxwood Dr.

Premier Doug Ford announced during a news conference Nov. 16 the company will produce 50 million masks annually over the next five years for the province. “This will provide health care and essential service providers across the province with a secure, local supply they can rely on,” the provincial release states.

First staff will come on for initial training next week, CEO David Welsh told Cambridge Times. The company has already completed some production runs to validate the equipment in North America with a third party and is “ready to go,” he said.

Welsh said after production ramps up, he expects the facility to produce a million ear loop masks by December.

“There’s a couple additional checks that we need on our equipment, but we should be going full blast, we hope, in about two weeks’ time,” he added. “We’ll probably deliver in the neighbourhood of four million masks to the province per month for the next five years.”

The province’s new contract announcement coincides with the establishment of Supply Ontario, a new “centralized procurement agency” that will save taxpayer money through purchases in bulk, the release read.

Supply Ontario will provide PPE to schools, hospitals, and the entire public sector, according to the release.

“Our experience responding to the COVID-19 pandemic only validated the need for a modern, more efficient supply chain system,” said Minister Lisa Thompson in the announcement.

“This made-in-Ontario solution will support greater domestic production, drive job creation and economic growth, and create opportunities for Ontario manufacturers and innovators to enter the playing field and bid for projects to supply our province.”

The Cambridge facility is PRIMED’s first Canadian factory. Its plants are also located in China and Laos.

The initial production will be going toward the province of Ontario, but the company has capacity to produce on a global scale during average times. Right now, the company already supplies the majority of Canada’s face masks to acute care, according to the company.

If the Cambridge plant was run 24-7, then it would produce 1.8 billion face masks a year, Welsh said.

To produce at that scale, the company would need to hire about 100 people each for three shifts. Welsh said he thinks the company could “very quickly” get to three shifts of 50 to 65 people as long as the demand is there.

The company will need to bring in “production staff and mechanics and quality staff,” in the near future, he said. The CEO said he was “impressed” with the manufacturing base available in the Cambridge region, with the talent, materials and supplies that the company needs being available.

PRIMED previously announced the Cambridge facility was chosen because it’s located along the 401, in proximity to major Canadian and American cities, airports and major consumer markets.