In the heart of Montreal, a new plant is crucial to face a second wave of the COVID-19 is now seeing the light of day.
Through it, Quebec will be much less dependent on the use of medical supplies chinese and foreign. We will produce masks by the millions. And not just any.
Automatic machines, installed in a former industrial building of the Saint-Laurent borough, will produce 24 hours per day the famous N95 masks that have been so missed at the start of the pandemic.
Property of Medicom, a montreal company that is one of the largest distributors of medical equipment in the world, the plant will be the only one in Canada to manufacture of N95 masks from the month of September.
Medicom has opened this week the doors of its factory, where it has already started to make another type of masks is also very useful.
“The great lesson of the COVID-19, is that for a product key protection like the mask, we can’t be dependent on a market that closes with,” recalls Guillaume Laverdure, chief operating officer of Medicom, in the interview, so that production machines are buzzing around us.
Mr. Laverdure evokes as well the jitters that had flanked the China to the whole world when, at the beginning of the pandemic, the sars coronavirus, it had decided to block its exports of medical equipment.
The situation will not happen again. Medicom plans to produce 40 million N95 masks per year in its plant in the borough of Saint-Laurent. Five specialized machines are expected from France in the next few weeks, so that the first masks come out in mid-September.
The canadian government will buy half of the production and that of Québec as a large part of it, that the ministry of Health did not want to specify, given that the final contract is not yet signed.
Last spring, Investissement Québec has agreed to a loan of up to $ 4 million to Medicom to accelerate the implementation of the factory.
Medicom is not a new comer in the field of masks. Far from it. It already operates plants for the N95 in France, Taiwan and the United States, and plans to open two new in the United Kingdom and Singapore.
90 million per year
Nevertheless, the contribution of the Montréal plant will not be limited only to the N95. It has already started since a few weeks the production of surgical masks to level 3, that is to say, those which offer the greatest capacity for uptake of particles and that is used in the operating rooms. Medicom expects to manufacture 90 million per year.
In this case as well as for the N95, Medicom will not depend on China for raw materials. The materials used in the Montreal factory will be sourced only from north american suppliers, or French.
“The idea is to have a supply chain that is resilient,” explains Guillaume Laverdure.
To avoid any interruption of the production, Medicom will also caution. A large space has been laid out in the facilities of the Saint-Laurent borough to store raw materials for three months of manufacture. During our visit, half the space was already occupied by the huge rolls of textile material.
Very effective, these masks are embracing closely the contours of the face filter out at least 95 % (hence the name) of the particles suspended in the air. Their manufacturing is more complex than the surgical masks standard. A limited number of companies in the place in the world.
A GIANT UNKNOWN
Present on four continents, the company Medicom was founded in Montreal in 1988, where its head office is still located –, in the event of another pandemic, that of HIV/aids, in response to the urgent request of gloves for healthcare professionals. It now has 1,100 employees, including 150 in Montreal, 13 distribution centers and 10 manufacturing plants. Its sales amounted to more than $ 400 million per year. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec announced this week the granting of a loan of an undisclosed amount to Medicom to enable it to continue its expansion.
The plant has already started the production of surgical masks to level 3, waiting for the start of the N95.
The surgical masks of level 3, we will manufacture at the rate of 90 million per year, provides the best ability to capture airborne particles and are used in the operating rooms.
Medicom has accumulated an impressive stock of huge rolls of textile material in a section adjacent to its factory. It targets a reserve equivalent to three months of production.
The plant, which received a loan of $ 4 million from Investissement Québec, enables the creation of 33 jobs.
The chief operating officer of Medicom, Guillaume Laverdure, reminds us of the dangers of depending on a major producer like China for the supply of medical equipment.
Three types of textile material and strips of metal are necessary to manufacture surgical masks. The materials used here come from north american suppliers and French.
The production of masks is largely automated. Some of these machines come from France.