The seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and created a global battlefield where the soldiers are doctors and grocery store clerks alike. Unified against this microscopic enemy, everyone is doing their part to gain ground in protecting humankind and our way of life. At Spellbound we are no different, our DNA compelling us to search for ways to offer our services to help arm and protect our fellow global citizens.
As calls flooded in from our clients for PPE, sanitizer and non-contact thermometers, we began exploring how to best answer the rapidly growing call for help in a way that could create a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19.
“We kept receiving so many inquiries on face shields [at the beginning], but it felt like a commodity product”, recounts Ryan Burkes, Spellbound’s Director of Manufacturing and Supply Chain.
Options for face shields are abundant and varied, so we asked the question “why aren’t our clients just using one of those?”.
According to the National Institute of Health, Face shields are personal protective equipment (PPE) devices that are used by many workers (e.g., medical, dental, veterinary) for protection of the facial area and associated mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) from splashes, sprays, and splatter of body fluids.
While historically face shields had been designed almost exclusively for workers in the medical industry, the COVID-19 pandemic expanded the need for this type of PPE beyond its originally intended audience, to a much larger and varied audience classified as ‘essential workers’. Despite the multitude of face shield designs and configurations available, none appeared to have been designed for comfort, all-day wear, or for the very diverse work environments of this broad new category of workers.
In short: The need for face protection hadn’t changed but the audience had, and their unique needs begged investigation and incorporation into a new solution.
DISCOVERY: Making Sense of the Mess
Your friend asks you “what is the best wrench you can buy?”. As you attempt to answer the question, confusion strikes: crescent wrenches, lug wrenches, impact wrenches, socket wrenches, box end/open end wrenches, ratcheting wrenches, torque wrenches, allen wrenches. What does your friend need again?
Spellbound’s Discovery process always begins with trying to gain a greater understanding of the problem at hand by asking and answering key questions: Is there a meaningful problem that, if solved, will truly benefit our clients? What are the unmet needs that will drive the design requirements? Can we contribute something new and better to this already crowded market?
But this exercise involved more than just answering questions about one particular problem. We had to understand more about the pandemic itself. We had to understand how it was affecting the safety of our clients’ staff. We had to understand how the rapidly evolving regulations and safety requirements were affecting our clients’ business operations. We had to understand the challenges with supply chain and materials availability during a global pandemic.
Knowing the unprecedented hardships our clients were facing, we were more determined than ever to help them.
Armed with the understanding gained from answering these questions, we knew we could confidently employ the back-to-the-drawing-board thinking that makes way for fresh ideas, while also incorporating the time-tested positive attributes of established solutions.
THE SOLUTION: A Novel Idea
The more we dug, the more we understood why the established solutions were not acceptable for the broad category of essential workers. Face shields typically include some form of headgear including straps, armatures, ratchets and more; and most were uncomfortable and/or heavy. Additional shortcomings include impeding head movement, poor ergonomics, uncomfortable pressure points, direct skin contact, and poor integration with a variety of other PPE and/or eyewear. These types of shortcomings contribute to noncompliance, and compliance is key to the effectiveness of any PPE.
We also uncovered an important consideration that was missing in established face shield designs. Despite the various types of headgear offered, none worked well with a key component of so many essential workers’ uniforms – the hat.
“[The design process] started with a question of how to make it stable around the head without multiple pieces. What if we use something that’s already stable? Like a hat.”, said Burkes.
Utilizing their existing uniforms would allow our clients to easily incorporate health-saving PPE, without asking their employees to don yet another uncomfortable item on their face. In addition, brand recognition and promotion are important to our clients, and this solution enables brands to preserve brand identity without sacrificing PPE performance.
DEVELOPMENT: Crunch Time
Time was a luxury we did not have, given the urgency caused by the rapidly growing shortages of PPE. And like so many others in the race to provide solutions, we encountered many unprecedented challenges we had not encountered before. From limited materials supply and logistical delays, to phones that rang unanswered. Nevertheless, designing a solution that had the flexibility to work within the constraints of strained global supply chains, while not compromising product performance, was of critical importance.
During the design and engineering process, we had to account for hundreds of hat designs with varying brim widths, curvatures, lengths, thicknesses, and materials. It was essential that the design ensured secure fit, functionality, stability and ease of use across this broad range of brim configurations. In addition, our design had to pass our strict internal and external intellectual property assessment prior to moving forward.
By harnessing our Power Of Many Minds® network and process, the design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain and intellectual property challenges were all solved at an extremely fast pace; and all in the throes of accelerating shutdowns due to the pandemic.
Our clients had testable, fully functional samples in their hands just three weeks after the initial design concept!
INTRODUCING: The CrewSafe Face Shield
We are pleased to introduce our CrewSafe Face Shield – the coolest, most comfortable non-contact face shield on the market. Easy to install on the brim of your favorite cap or as part of your uniform. Complying with CDC guidelines for face shield PPE, it’s patents-pending design focuses on maximizing safety. Anti-fog coated and made with high clarity PET, it is extremely comfortable and lightweight, and does not impede head movement or obstruct facial communication.
Contact us today for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting crewsafe.com/product/crewsafe-face-shield. We are proud to contribute solutions to our clients to help keep them, their employees and their brands safer.