FAIRFIELD — Nate Weaton is a high school football coach, so he understands the notion of springing everyone around him into action.
Away from the football field and as president and CEO of Weaton Capital, he’s doing it once again.
The company has been called upon to produce face shields for health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The company already performs some work for the government, but this is something completely new.
“We deal with a particular high-density type of plastic sheet, so I got an email from a supplier wondering if we could make sheets into face shields,” Weaton said. “When the news hit that there was a personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage, that’s how the ball got rolling. Making face shields is a similar process to what we do, but this is something we’ve never done before.”
And the ball started rolling quickly. Weaton shut down two of his production lines just to make the shields. He then talked with the governor’s office and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to assess the shortage. After that, he found out what the protocols would be from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Iowa.
“The biggest problem is the supply chain for some of the materials. Some of it is nonexistent,” he said. “I’ve had an order canceled on me. Still, it’s been an all-hands-on-deck operation for us.”
Most face shields are 8 inches long, but Weaton Capital created a shield an inch longer according to the wishes of those needing them.
“I basically told them to tell us what this needs to look like,” Weaton said. “They said, ‘Eight inches are great, but if they can be 9 inches, that would be better.’ They did say we had to have a protective film on the outside that could be peeled off, but we kind of had a blank canvas to design them.”
The company created 2,400 prototype shields from a polyester-based plastic, and assembly of the shields, elastic and foam is being done at a separate site for worker safety. The foam is produced by one of Weaton Capital’s brands, Honeycorr. Over the next two or three months, Weaton figures his company can create about 300,000 shields.
“So far, we’ve been able to make about 15,000 to 20,000 a week, and we’ll be able to ship 100 per box,” he said. “Then we’re really go into mass production, and then we’ll be shipping these to wherever they need to go.”
Weaton said there was no hesitation when it came to disrupting the normal business to help in this cause.
“One of the core values we have here is giving back,” he said. “I mean, this is why we do it, and it’s gratifying. If we can help make our health care workers more safe, then we will. We’ll do what we need to do.
“I think the most gratifying thing is to walk through and see the pride that my workers have,” Weaton said. “They’re doing this for the right reasons.”