BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- “We’re all in this together,” is more than a slogan for Jeff Mornan of Bridgewater. He and his family are living it, even though no one in the family has been directly impacted by COVID-19.
When the family-owned company Diamond Enterprise on Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights, closed its doors on Friday night, March 27, it specialized in printing and finishing services, including lamination, book binding, creating menus and catalogues and more.
The next day they answered the call to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for doctors, nurses and others who are working in the front lines to save people's lives who have COVID-19.
Jeff said, “A medical supply company, CoulMed, in Springfield, came to us on Saturday asking if we could produce safety (face) shields ... We had a prototype for the (FR1) Face Shield by Sunday and started manufacturing them on Monday, March 30," Mornan said.
By the end of the week, they had shipped 55,000 units to various hospitals, including one in Bergen County, “a couple of hospitals in Brooklyn, and to facilities in Lakewood and Nebraska.” Jeff said “We drop ship the shields under CoulMed's name to the hospitals, who are CoulMed's customers, not ours."
This is truly a family enterprise: Jeff and Janet Mornan live in Bridgewater with their son, Milano, who is 20 months old; Jeff’s dad, Bob, founder and owner of Diamond Enterprise, and Jeff’s brother, Mark, both live in Greenbrook; Jeff’s brother-in-law, Tim Fry lives and works in Pennsylvania. They all pitched in to fulfill the orders, with the help of dedicated employees at two different locations.
Jeff said Fry’s help was instrumental in being able to make and ship orders quickly. Fry who owns The Edgewood Company, which works on huge commercial hardscaping projects as well as small ones, is based in Malvern, PA. There wasn’t a lot of work for Fry's crews because of the pandemic. Jeff said when he asked Fry if he would like to take part in the project, Fry said "sure," and cleared out a warehouse where he parks his trucks.
“We shipped supplies for assembling” the face shields to Pennsylvania. “They set up a table and did the hand-work assembly,” Jeff said, adding the workers were excited to be doing something to help. They are running two shifts with 25 workers on each shift in Pennsylvania, and producing about 70 percent of the safety shields.
“In Berkeley Heights we make the pieces and ship much of that to Malvern for assembly, but we also are doing some assembly here,” Jeff said.
At the Berkeley Heights location eight people, including Jeff’s wife, Janet, are helping create the components, which consist of “lamination, foam, ribbon, and padding,” and they assemble the masks.
That doesn’t mean they’ve suspended their regular work. “That’s what we do first thing in the morning. We start work at 5 a.m. The rest of the afternoon is dedicated” to the PPE project, he said, noting that “regular work” is down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Janet said they were happy to be able to do “anything to help the people on the front lines battling to save lives.”
The biggest problem they ran into was “sourcing materials,” which was his brother Mark’s project. Jeff said, “It’s been a rat race. He spent most of the day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning trying to locate material. Most of the places were cleaned out.” Once the supplies were located, “we picked up everything in different parts of Jersey,” Jeff said.
Janet said, “We have enough supplies to do a half-million … That’s the plan for now.”
Jeff added, “If we get the orders, I will find the supplies.” So far they have shipped 300,000 FR1 Face Shields.
Their work isn’t limited to making the face shields. Jeff said they just started making isolation gowns for CoulMed -- the blue polyethylene ones used by doctors and nurses at hospitals around the country. Some tri-state area hospitals had run so short of gowns they were getting ready to start wearing garbage bags. “When we heard that, we said ‘We have to make those,’ and began setting up a production line,” in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania, he said. First they created and sent out prototypes for approval. Once they received the OK, their first batch went to New York City hospitals, he said.
Other friends in the industrial cleaning industry found out they were making gowns and placed additional orders. “Now we are shipping for the food industry, to manufacturing plants, including Tyson Chicken, Coca Cola, Pepsi, General Mills -- all kinds of places,” he said.
Fortunately, everyone involved in the business is “still healthy, but a few customers have gotten COVID-19, and it’s terrible. All we can do is keep praying and moving forward. We are all in this together,” Jeff said.