Bauer helping humanity
by Andrew Podnieks|27 MAR 2020
These days Bauer produces visors for medical facilities while ice rinks are closed.
The Bauer Skate Company was established in Kitchener in the Canadian province of Ontario in 1927, and has been at the forefront of hockey equipment technology ever since. It has undergone a few ownership changes in its nearly century-old history, but today it’s not the name that matters so much as the equipment they’re producing.

The company’s swift and supportive reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic has led to a series of internal discussions that in turn has led to the company changing their production line to produce visors for front-line health workers, namely doctors and nurses and hospital workers.

The primary impetus came during discussions between management teams at Bauer’s headquarters in Blainville, Quebec and Liverpool, New York. 

“Some members of our RDD [Research, Design, and Development] team for both Bauer Hockey and Cascade Lacrosse put forward the idea, built prototypes, and validated a final design with medical professionals all in a matter of five days,” Ed Kinnaly, CEO of Bauer Hockey and Cascade explained proudly yesterday during a hectic day of transition and production.

These new visors look something like welders’ shields. They are over-sized, covering the entire face (front and side) and neck, and have a simple elastic band that wraps around the head. The visors get low marks for style and fashion but earn a perfect score for helping front-line workers from contracting COVID-19 under conditions where exposure is both frequent and dangerous.

Although Bauer makes visors for hockey helmets, the change to the current setup is “massive,” Kinnaly acknowledges. “The method to produce the visors for medical staff utilizes die-cut pieces that have to be assembled. Hockey visors utilize high pressure moulding machinery and require a much more robust bill of materials.”

What that means is that although the making of the medical visors is much easier than hockey visors, the transformation of the production thus becomes, paradoxically, very complicated. 

The problem with most PPEs (personal protective equipment) used in hospitals is that they can’t be re-used, and such is the case with these visors. They can’t be cleaned to standards of sterilization required by doctors, so they don’t last forever, but their very existence is critical to health-care workers as the pandemic expands its grasp. 

More important, Bauer has confirmed that the company will produce these “medical visors” for as long as the demand is there. “We are in it for the long haul and will be helping for as long as needed,” Kinnaly said.

To that end, production has begun, and the first visors were shipped yesterday while mass production and shipping will begin today. The combined efforts of Blainville and Liverpool will start at an output of 2,000 to 4,000 per day, but that is merely the beginning.

“We will be increasing production once we get the supply chain stabilized as we use local materials,” Kinnaly continued. “We are also converting some of our off shore manufacturing factories in Taiwan and Thailand to make these, and we will import these units. We expect this avenue to increase our capability exponentially.”

This is remarkable news. It means when everything is up and running, Bauer’s various production facilities will be able to produce between 30,000 to 40,000 visors a week.

Orders will be shipped simply on a first come, first served basis. As Kinnaly notes, “We have an in-take process on our websites and, and we will flow large quantities in “lots” so we can serve multiple customers.”

The story of this massive change in production would not be complete without acknowledging one inspiring detail. As Canada and the United States have closed down all non-essential production and services, Bauer was forced to close. The staff, however, agreed to break this order and return to work in order to start production as quickly as possible. 

They do so, however, under strict safety standards such that work stations at least 6’/2m apart have been established at the plants and sterilization chemicals will be used regularly to ensure employee safety.

Bauer’s swift and all-encompassing actions are remarkable testaments to the human spirit and human efforts. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and right now the planet is in need. Bauer is doing its part, in spades.