“We have already sold more than in 2019”: in the Loire, the arrival of the new coronavirus boosts the activity of Valmy, one of the French manufacturers of respiratory protection masks supposed to stem the progression of the disease.
The machines at the factory, located in Mably near Roanne, look like printing presses. But these are masks that come out continuously, or almost, to meet the explosion in demand.
“For the past month, we have set up two new teams, one for the night and one for the Saturday, while waiting to be able to work on Sunday,” explains Nicolas Brillat, director of operations for the site. A request to this effect has been sent to the administration.
From around twenty, the workforce of the production workshop and warehouse, which covers 4,000 square meters, has grown to 60 men and women, the surplus having been recruited on a fixed-term or temporary contract. And “10 to 15 positions” remain to be filled “quickly”.
After a few days of training, Regis Velien, 47, started this week.
“At the end of the chain, we take the masks, we do a visual check to make sure everything is fine, from time to time we open one to see if it is well welded, if the elastics hold well”, explains it in the din of a machine.
Before placing them in boxes or loose in cartons, depending on their destination.
At 10:30 a.m., the press counter, triggered when it took up post at 5:00 a.m., crossed the 17,000-unit mark; it exceeds 22,000 an hour later.
Since the start of the crisis, production has increased tenfold, says Brillat. And the shipping pallets don’t stay long in the warehouse.
- “Feeling of urgency” –
The factory manufactures two types of masks: one to protect against the virus – standardized FPP2, FPP3 or N95 – and the other – known as “surgical” – so as not to transmit it when one is sick – it is also used in the operating room.
China and Taiwan, which normally provide 80% of world production, abruptly stopped their exports in the face of the epidemic, causing a shortage on the market.
To find 200 million masks, the Ministry of Health gathered, Thursday in Paris, five manufacturers, French and foreign, established in France: Valmy, Kolmi-Hopen, Paul Boye Technologies, Mako Pharma and 3M, according to sources. of the sector. Everyone must specify their production capacities by next week.
The Loire company would like to buy other machines but the manufacturers are already taken by storm by the Chinese. Another difficulty is the supply of raw materials: spools of non-woven polypropylene which take place at the entrance to the presses, elastic bands that support the mask on the face.
“We have visibility over six to eight weeks,” said the leader of Valmy, more worried for the future.
Responding to the emergency increases the cost price and this increase is passed on to distributors. “As little as possible”: the soaring prices on the market, “totally delusional”, would be due to “unscrupulous” intermediaries and “sense of urgency”.
Valmy, created in 2006 against the background of avian flu, was bought in 2017 by Segetex-Eif which has other factories in Oise, Ukraine and China.
The group hopes that this health crisis will benefit “made in France”.
“The whole challenge is to perpetuate the production and the staff here. Let there be an awareness”, believes Laurent Suissa, CEO of Segetex-Eif.