- A furniture manufacturing company in Durban is now making personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Trendi Holdings managed to save a third of its employees' jobs by shifting its operations during the national lockdown.
- As the lockdown eases, they are shifting back to making furniture and have employed a further 60 people to continue with producing PPE.
When the country went into a nationwide lockdown, the owner of Trendi Holdings, a Durban based furniture manufacturer, was determined to retain his employees, even though regular business operations had stopped.
"We looked into importing PPE but after two weeks of investigating, we realised that there was so much nonsense out there, false certifications circulating and we didn't want to import duds," Jeremy Rom, CEO of Trendi Holdings, told News24.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the lockdown, Rom realised he had to act quickly.
"We couldn't have 400 people sitting at home with no work," he said.
He organised a meeting with Kyle Evans, the owner of a medical wholesaler called Med Pak & Carter, to find out if there were any feasible opportunities for them.
"They pulled out a bunch of products, coveralls, isolation gowns and it just so happened that these products are made from spunbond polypropylene and we use this material in the day-to-day manufacturing of our furniture," he said.
Rom took samples of these items and the technicians on his team created prototypes.
"We took it back to Kyle the next day - our work force are used to making high quality products - and it turns out we make very high quality coverall and isolation gowns," he said.
Med Pak & Carter got its sales team to contact their customer base to landscape the demand for production.
"After that they placed an order for 40 000 units - turned out the demand was significant. From then we've converted our 5 000 square meter furniture manufacturing plant into a cut and sew PPE plant," he said.
Trendi Holdings has now taken orders for over 300 000 units of PPE which will carry the business through to August.
As the lockdown has eased and they've returned to manufacturing furniture again, Rom employed a further 60 people to keep up with the demand for PPE.
"The demand for furniture during lockdown dropped by 50% but the PPE business has balanced this loss and meant we've been able to carry on and not retrench anyone," he said.