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ZF Partners with Detroit Sewn on Face Masks

Essential protection for essential workers
#facilities #Pontiac #ZF


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The airbags ZF produces at its manufacturing plants in Romeo, Mich., and Chihuahua, Mexico, are designed to protect motorists during a crash.

Now the two facilities, which were idled several weeks ago amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, have begun making another lifesaving device: face masks.

Protecting Essential Workers

The washable and reusable fabric masks, designed by Pontiac, Mich.-based Detroit Sewn, will be sent to frontline healthcare workers and others at high risk for contracting COVID-19, such as workers at soup kitchens, nursing homes and other essential organizations.

ZF expects to deliver its first shipment of 100,000 masks by the end of the month to Detroit Sewn, which will coordinate distribution to those in need through its healthcare contacts.

             Mask-making team at ZF’s Romeo, Mich., facility. (Image: ZF)

About 60 employees—a mix of engineers and assembly workers—at the ZF facilities are producing the masks and validating the process. More are expected to be added soon.

Both plants have cut-and-sew expertise through their airbag operations. Chihuahua normally produces steering wheels and airbags, while Romeo tests and develops prototype airbags.

Global Impact

ZF, which specializes in driveline and safety systems, also is evaluating if some of its other global locations could produce personal protection equipment and medical devices during the pandemic outbreak. In some cases, the facilities could continue to make such products after they’ve resumed automotive production, according to company officials.

The company operates 240 facilities in 41 countries. Its plants in Asia already have gone back to work, and the first in Europe is due to restart next week.

“The world is facing a situation unlike anything our generation has seen before and while the challenge may seem impossible, now more than ever, it’s the support of each and every individual and company working together that is truly making a difference,” notes Martin Fischer, president of ZF North America and member of the Board of Management of the Friedrichshafen, Germany-based company.

Local Partner

Combating the coronavirus also requires innovative partnerships. Automakers and suppliers, for example, are helping ventilator and respirator manufacturers increase production.

Detroit Sewn’s operations in Pontiac, Mich. 

ZF is working with Detroit Sewn, a small, full-service cut-and-sew manufacturer that transformed its operations about a month ago to produce masks and gowns to help protect “essential workers” against the spread of the virus.

Working on two shifts, Detroit Sewn’s 25 employees have produced and shipped more than 21,000 masks from its operations. It also is supplying its design and fabric to seven manufacturing and sewing partners, including ZF and interior trim supplier Eissmann Group.

“With our partners’ help along with support from G1 Impact, our nonprofit fiscal sponsor, we have the infrastructure in place to produce more than 300,000 masks in the short term, and the orders continue to roll in daily from health systems and nonprofits,” says founder and CEO Karen Buscemi.

Detroit Sewn also partnered with the Glamorous Moms Foundation to create the Michigan Mask Donation Center in Pontiac. The center collects donated home-sewn masks, then distributes them to community groups in need. 


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