UTEP assists nationwide effort to identify medical equipment suppliers to support COVID19 response

The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC), a manufacturing consulting center based at The University of Texas at El Paso, is assisting organizations and businesses throughout the Paso del Norte region, state and country, by connecting them with manufacturers to acquire critical personal protective equipment (PPE) needed in the fight against COVID-19.

COVID-19’s impact on local businesses has created shortages of medical supplies such as gowns, N95 masks, face shields, and other related products.

TMAC has worked to identify relevant manufacturers that can change their operations to fill this need. TMAC is scouting capabilities in pharmaceutical preparation, plastics, soap and cleaning compounds, medical equipment supplies, batteries, and medical device manufacturers, to gauge their ability to assist with regard to PPE shortage and gathering that information.

The supply chain scouting efforts at UTEP are managed by Amit Lopes, Ph.D., assistant professor in UTEP’s Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering (IMSE) program, and regional director of TMAC Paso del Norte (PdN), which includes six counties in southwest Texas. UTEP is the host institution for TMAC PdN, which is overseen by UTEP’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects.

TMAC has been collaborating with other MEP centers throughout the United States, the Medical Center of the Americas, Bio El Paso Juárez, New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s task force worked with TMAC’s state executive director, Mark Sessumes, to develop a strategy to respond to the need for PPE and initiate a plan to better position the agency for future needs.

Lopes is the regional TMAC liaison to the governor’s task force team and has four “trusted business advisors” who are assisting in these efforts.

A.P.I. Face Shield | Photo courtesy UTEP

“The overall vision for the TMAC Statewide Task Force team is to create a strategy (both short- and long-term) for a robust supply chain network centered around the themes of response, recovery, and resilience to address critical needs and minimize disruptions to incidents,” Lopes said.

“The goal is for TMAC to be the owner of the statewide supplier network responsible for building a stronger customer-supplier network with necessary resources to maintain that network — enabling a stronger, more sustainable economic condition.”

TMAC is assisting companies to gain access to grants/loans to offset employee salaries and address loss of business with relevant investments.

Additionally, the center supports companies as they make the adjustment toward starting manufacturing operations again in a post-COVID-19 environment. TMAC’s efforts shorten the time between when COVID-19 related products are needed by the providers and finding an organization who can manufacture it.

“Small manufacturers are valuable in this scenario because they can more quickly transition to making a different product,” Lopes said. “We had a manufacturer that was making coats that is now making gowns and masks. TMAC can do the engineering for them if they need it and help source raw materials and design the machine.”

To learn more about TMAC and manufacturers producing COVID-19 PPE resources, click here to visit their website.