Updated: Jul 5
As Covid-19 takes hold around the world and nations close their borders, companies have scrambled to prepare for the crisis, and many have changed the way they do business. Just about every industry has been affected in a significant way by the novel coronavirus, with food and beverage business being forced to switch to a takeaway and delivery only model, and other companies being forced to close their doors entirely. The situation varies from country to country, often dependent on the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak and the laws that have been enforced to reduce its spread. Whilst some companies have brought in measures to reduce their losses, such as redeploying their sales efforts to alternate channels, particularly online mediums, other companies have repurposed their production and supply capabilities to help stop the spread of the virus.
Around the world, brands’ responses have ranged from donating large percentages of their profits to relief efforts, to manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers and ventilators. There are simply too many brands to list who have found a way to pitch in to the fight against coronavirus, but here are some Australian companies we think are worth mentioning.
SPINIFEX Brewing Co & Limestone Coast Brewing
These two Western Australian breweries have joined operational forces to produce World Health Organisation (WHO) grade hand sanitiser. Under the arrangement, Limestone Coast will be responsible for producing the sanitiser, which uses approximately 80% ethanol, whilst SPINIFEX Brewing will be responsible for distribution and sales under the newly created brand SPINIFEX Protect. The two breweries are also in discussion with the Western Australian government attempting to fast track another production facility in Broome. Their distribution priority is based on order of need, with a particular focus on distribution to regional WA, indigenous health centres and indigenous communities.
Queensland wool garment manufacturer Merino Country has repurposed its business and machinery from a supplier of natural underwear and clothing to producing face masks designed for the general public. Whilst the company usually produces underwear, activewear and comfortwear, they have also been known to produce thermals for the Victorian Police, the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Antarctic Division, which gave the company valuable experience in producing large quantities for prompt delivery. For the foreseeable future, the company has ceased production of its other products and has also brought in out-of-work machinists, who had previously been employed in sports uniform manufacturing, in order to ensure that Merion Country’s mask production can meet demand. Supplying masks to the general public was also intended to reduce the demand of P2 & surgical masks sorely needed by medical staff.
The Victoria-based Australian biotechnology company Grey Innovation is leading a consortium of Australian businesses in the production of 2000 new ventilators which will be built by the end of July in an effort to boost the capacity of hospitals to respond to Covid-19. The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre helped broker the deal, which has transformed Grey Innovation and its consortium of manufacturers into one of only two (so far) Australian ventilator producers. Whilst it’s not particularly unusual for a biotech company to be producing ventilators, the list of companies that make up their consortium includes several engineering and manufacturing companies that would otherwise be engaged in the production of unrelated products.
Grey Innovation’s consortium will result in tens of thousands of square metres of manufacturing facility space and hundreds of personnel to be engaged in the production of a certified mechanical ventilator design under licence for production, and enables the companies to pool their entire value chains. The full list of companies involved will be released once the consortium has been finalised.
The Victorian distillery widely renowned for its gin has also pivoted its production capabilities to produce 20,000 litres of hand sanitiser products. One of these products, named Take Care, is being produced with the intention of selling it in bulk to health professionals. Their first batch has already been delivered to numerous Australian healthcare providers, with production of the next batch underway. Another of their products, called Heads, Tails & Clean Hands, is an aromatic gin-scented hand sanitiser aimed towards consumers. By allocating some of their production processes towards hand sanitiser, Four Pillars has been able to keep nearly 30 people employed in their bottling and packaging lines who would have otherwise lost their positions.
The global coronavirus crisis has also seen many brands and companies around the world get involved in some way, shape or form. Several fashion brands have joined the fight, with Gucci announcing it would donate 2 million euros to coronavirus relief efforts, Chanel producing face masks and medical gear, and GAP announcing that it will deliver PPE to hospitals as it pivots its factory resources to produce face masks, scrubs and gowns for health care workers. Some celebrities have also involved themselves in the relief effort, with Lady Gaga raising $35 million (USD) for the World Health Organisation and Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher organising a one-off Oasis reunion to raise for frontline workers in England’s National Health Service (NHS).
These are truly unprecedented times we live in, so it is reassuring to know that brands and companies are able to redirect their resources towards producing life saving products and equipment to reduce the damage brought on by the pandemic. Whilst some of these brands are still able to make a reasonable profit from their efforts, it is inspiring to see how many are redirecting their resources simply because there is a need for them to do so.