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Doing Their Part

Michael Bednark, a Cape native and Barnstable High School graduate, now owns an innovative fabrication company in Brooklyn, NY. His company quickly pivoted to manufacture face shields for frontline healthcare workers in New York City.
As the world retreats to shelter at home, some heed the call to step up and help.

When the world hit the pause button to combat a global pandemic, it sealed our place in human history. Throughout the centuries there have been moments that are now recognized as pivot points for what comes after; the era in which we are currently living surely seems to fit that definition. However, invariably signs of strength, hope and ingenuity, all fueled by caring hearts, rise from despair and devastation. In that, these times are also no different. From the earliest days of shelter and quarantine orders, while most of us were just trying to wrap our head around what was actually happening, many people were the penultimate example of what it means to rise to the challenge.

Perhaps the earliest example of leveraging ingenuity that might make a difference, in whatever small way, resulted from a sales inquiry to a local packaging manufacturer SencorpWhite, which not only provides machinery for their clients, but also excels in helping their clients find unique and personalized solutions for their individual business. Brian Golden, Vice President of Sencorp Sales, says that an inquiry from a business prospect at Honeywell in Smithfield, Rhode Island was unexpected, yet intriguing in its possibilities. “The opportunity came to us, and it was very early in the crisis.The virus was virtually still outside of the United States at the time,” Golden explains. “Honeywell wasn’t even our customer, only a prospect. Their question was whether or not we had a particular machine available for immediate delivery. We were lucky: we did. At first we didn’t understand what they wanted to use it for, but it became clear fairly quickly that it could easily accommodate production of N-95 masks that were anticipated to soon be in short supply. At the time, the machines weren’t proven to be able to produce the product, so our company had to make some modifications to the equipment in order to fabricate the masks.”

Golden says everyone at SencorpWhite owns a piece of this effort as well as the ultimate contribution. “I can speak for the entire organization when I say that everyone stepped up to meet the call,” Golden offers. “It normally takes 18 to 20 weeks to produce a machine. When the order came up, everyone knew time was of the essence, and we had to condense that time frame down to under eight weeks. Everybody contributed to making the machine in that short time; and everybody felt a sense of pride that they were able to contribute to a need that is bigger than even just our country, but globally as well.”

SencorpWhite has successfully delivered three machines to Honeywell for N-95 mask production and has several more in the pipeline. In addition, Golden says that another opportunity involving the manufacturing of face shields has Sencorp providing fulfillment to local EMS, police departments, nursing homes and TSA agents across southeastern New England.

Michael Bednark knows a bit about face shields. The Barnstable High School graduate and son of two entrepreneurs (his father started the iconic Barnstable Bat Company and his mother was a very successful private caterer), says that he learned the strong ethics of hard work and stick-to-it-ive-ness from his parents. “Growing up on the Cape, I watched both of my parents work really hard, not for someone else, but for themselves, since they both owned their own small businesses,” Bednark remembers. “So hard work, figuring out a way to solve problems and just getting it done, was ingrained in me.” When it became clear that COVID-19 had set the metropolitan region of New York squarely in its sights, Bednark, who has built a successful and innovative fabrication business, Bednark Studios in Brooklyn, knew he had to figure out a way to help.

“We are constantly taking the specific and uniquely individualized needs of our clients into consideration,” Bednark explains. “And then, we come up with a solution; that’s just what we do. It was all anyone was talking about in March: the shortage of critical Personal Protection Equipment for healthcare and emergency workers. Our team looked at the construction of face shields, and it seemed pretty straightforward. We thought we could definitely come up with something.” In fact, Bednark and his team created a pretty uncomplicated version that could be fabricated with small modifications to some of the dozens of intricate and complex machines that fill the 60,000 square feet of Bednark Studios. “I was always working in my father’s woodworking shop as a kid, so I have always been drawn to creating things.”

The company, which had 150 employees before the pandemic, found themselves making the hard decision by mid-March to furlough almost half of their employees, but a contract with the New York City Mayor’s office allowed Bednark to hire 50 to 80 new employees for face shield production on an assembly line. Production has shifted to almost exclusively face shield production in order to meet the city’s order for 2.2 million face shields, a number that increased by almost double since it quickly became clear that Bednark’s quality and construction of the shields made it the shield of choice for most anyone who tried one. In addition, Bednark has introduced a new product that is starting to gain steam as communities prepare to venture out of home quarantine, and involves installed partitions that provide protection between drivers and passengers for companies like Lyft and Uber.

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