Streamlining supply to power a transformative pandemic response
Jun 29, 2020

COVID-19 has evolved and fluctuated since its onset at the end of 2019, and business owners have been required to adapt along with it. The need to develop new best practices, adjust to supply chain restrictions and meet drastic changes in demand has posed many challenges, but for some, it has unlocked powerful new potential.

In the case of Minneapolis-based WOODCHUCK USA, the need for personal protective equipment among health care workers became the catalyst for an unexpected, yet vastly successful, transformation of its business.

Before the pandemic hit, the company was best known for customized corporate wood gifts—cell phone cases, notebooks, keepsake boxes and more. However, a late-night call from a hospital running out of PPE supplies drove WOODCHUCK USA to shift its focus and production lines to face shields. Referencing designs from Johns Hopkins Medical, the WOODCHUCK USA team began repurposing its existing manufacturing equipment and within just three days, was making roughly 55,000 shields a day.

The company’s remarkable pivot to support health care workers was shared on social media, where it caught the attention of a 3M team. WOODCHUCK USA was an existing customer, and with some light research, the employees discovered they were using 3M materials to produce the shields—they just weren’t receiving these items directly from the company.

Just as 3M was making this discovery, WOODCHUCK USA was encountering issues with supply chain consistency—putting its ability to maintain production output and protect at-risk health care workers in jeopardy. A timely call from 3M provided direct, high-volume access to three crucial materials for their shields—3M™ Grip Lock Strip for the head straps, laminating adhesive to secure a comfort foam pad over the forehead and PET sheets for the face shield itself—and kept production going at full tilt.

“I was astounded by how helpful and quickly the 3M team responded,” said Benjamin VandenWymelenberg, founder and CEO of WOODCHUCK USA. “Our sales representative, Riley Wilson, has been physically here on a daily basis, helping with calls and even riding with our team to ensure product is available at the distribution centers.”

Through streamlined supply chain logistics and dedicated customer service, 3M helped supercharge WOODCHUCK USA’s production levels to 250,000 shields a day within just five days of establishing a direct connection. With approximately 450 workers staffing production lines 24/7, this meant yields of 1.75 million shields each week and WOODCHUCK USA becoming one of the largest-capacity face shield providers in the country. As an added benefit, the company is able to offer immediate production for bulk orders on WOODCHUCKMEDICAL.COM, allowing for the critical delivery of face shields within days (versus the 2-3 week wait times seen elsewhere).

The success of WOODCHUCK USA’s mid-pandemic transformation has put more than 4,423,000 face shields in the hands of frontline health care workers. It has also led to a contract with FEMA, an expanded manufacturing footprint and the decision to launch WOODCHUCK MEDICAL as a new, permanent corporate entity.

3M is proud to continue serving both channels of the company and is prepared to assist with any future pivots and offshoots for the businesses down the road.

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