On the Friday afternoon ending what Coaster Cycles’ COO Justin Bruce described as “THE most difficult week of our work lives,” Justin and CEO Ben Morris were contemplating what to do. They had just laid off the majority of their staff as business screeched to a halt under the impacts of COVID-19. Ben saw a post from Jesse Darley at Delve, the engineering firm that designed the original Coaster Pedicab, sharing an open-source face shield design and emailed Justin. “Within seven minutes of receiving the email, I was sourcing components and Ben was emailing hospitals,” said Justin.
Because the open-source design had already passed infectious disease approval, it was easy to fast-track a prototype. “So many businesses collaborated to help each other out, and they sent us components to build a handful of them. I built the first few and overnighted them to numerous hospital groups. Days later, we were contracted for building 500,000 units,” Justin said.
Coaster Cycles is a manufacturer of three wheeled human powered pedicabs based in the Bonner Mill Industrial Park since 2015. To pivot from manufacturing pedicabs to PPE, Coaster quickly went into high gear, hiring back key staff and rearranging their facility to begin manufacturing face shields. “We built workstations, created new safety protocols, engineered jigs, sourced components, and worked together on a plan. It was the most incredible display of teamwork I have ever witnessed. We shortened what should have been a year-long project into less than two weeks,” Justin commented when asked about the biggest challenge in pivoting to manufacture PPE.
So far, Coaster Cycles has been contracted to make 500,000 face shields for Providence St. Joseph Health’s 51 hospitals across seven states, including Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula. They’re also contracted for an additional 150,000 face shields for New York City’s Department of Health. As requests for face shields keep pouring in, Coaster is working to finalize agreements with other businesses in the Bonner Mill Industrial Park to increase production capacity and get their product into the hands of the health care workers who need them.
Quickly pivoting to the manufacture of PPE has enabled Coaster Cycles to bring jobs back into the community while filling an urgent need for frontline protection. Justin’s advice to other businesses looking to shift focus is to reach out to personal contacts in the medical field and ask them what they need. “I love seeing distilleries making hand sanitizer, people with sewing machines making facemasks and gowns, and so many other companies making face shields,” he said. “The need is so great, and there is still an incredible demand for more PPE. If you have a business with the tools or skills, and a team of people, let hospitals know how you can help them.”