Lexicon Fabricators and Constructors of Little Rock plans on delivering 4,000 face shields for health care workers to six central Arkansas hospitals next week, before the state is expected to reach a peak in COVID-19 cases.
The hospitals set to receive the shields are CHI St. Vincent, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Baptist Health, Arkansas Children’s, Arkansas Heart Hospital and Arkansas Surgical Hospital.
The company, at Little Rock Regional Chamber’s request, invented and manufactured a new aluminum bracket for face shields. The bracket replaces a plastic piece to extend the life of the mask.
Following local distribution, Lexicon plans to make the parts and template available throughout the state and country so that others can address their own shortages of personal protective equipment.
“Another cool part of that is, this is something that people can do all over the country, and we'll be happy to share with them how we’ve done it … It's not like it’s just something that we did; it’s something that people can replicate all over the world for that matter,” Chamber Executive Director Jay Chesshir told Arkansas Business late Thursday.
Lexicon’s work is part of a larger project among the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Little Rock School District and Mr. Plastics of Little Rock. All are using 3-D printers to produce the face shields.
Sage V Foods of Little Rock and Lexicon are splitting the project costs, estimated at $100,000, Chesshir said.
“It truly is an amazing story of creativity, ingenuity and then, obviously, from the Sage V and Lexicon standpoint, amazing generosity,” he said.
Patrick Schueck, Lexicon’s president and CEO, said, when Chesshir called him, the initial thought was that the schools’ 3-D printers could produce the brackets.
“It wasn't scalable, what they were doing,” Schueck said.
He asked Chesshir to take a picture of the bracket, then to bring it to Lexicon because he thought his company could make the brackets “better; cheaper; better, faster and scalable.”
Schueck credits Robert Johnson and Brealand Garrett, vice presidents with Lexicon Industrial Constructors, a division of Lexicon Constructors and Fabricators, for figuring out that the company should make brackets with aluminum. They designed the bracket and then bought a 36-inch piece of aluminum from Tractor Supply Co. to build a prototype.
“We're still making the plastic ones, but we've pivoted to make the aluminum ones for a couple of different reasons,” Chesshir said. “First of all, Patrick could make them far faster. Secondly … the aluminum ones are so sturdy. They're more durable. Literally, the hospitals will be able to use them for a long, long time.”
“It's just the right thing to do,” Schueck said. “And if it was one of our employees who was at UAMS who was sick, or it was one of our employees’ kids who was working as a nurse, or doctor or nurse assistant in need of these supplies, it’s the least we would do. We’re looking at this as we’re all one in the same, and we're doing everything we can to support the doctors and nurses who are doing their very best to protect us from this disease.”
Six to eight employees are working on the face shields, he said. They started that work on April 10.
Lexicion employees are wearing masks, per guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Schueck said the company struggled to buy the masks that are being sold at a premium, so they turned to employees and their families for help. Lexicon provided the design, and the employees and their families made close to 6,000 masks, he said.
Companies under the Lexicon banner employ about 1,500 people, with more than 500 in Arkansas. Lexicon Holding Co. of Little Rock reported $370 million in revenue in 2018, enough to put the firm at No. 32 on Arkansas Business' most recent list of the state's 75 largest private companies.