© 2024 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Get the latest news about the novel coronavirus from Iowa Public Radio and NPR News.

John Deere Now Making Face Shields To Protect Health Workers

courtesy John Deere
John Deere employee Jose Martinez works on a face shield for healthcare workers at the company's factory in Moline, Illinois.

A major manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment has begun producing face shields for healthcare workers.

John Deere’s Moline, Illinois, factory plans to make 225,000 shields in the first effort, and if materials are available and the need continues, it could make more.

Brad Russmann, the factory manager in Moline, says they’re using an open-source design from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, that meets the needs of the medical community. He says the company’s diverse expertise and commitment to the project made for a quick turnaround.

“We’ve been able to leverage the capability of our workforce and our factory, both our maintenance and production employees, to ultimately turn an idea into a reality in a matter of days not weeks,” Russmann said in a conference call with reporters.

The face shields will be sent to 17 Deere factories in eight states, which will distribute them to local healthcare workers.

David Ottavianelli, director of strategic projects and labor relations, says during the coronavirus pandemic, employees in many different locations were having frequent conversations with local healthcare providers.

“And those organizations have expressed an additional need, a critical additional need, for PPE (personal protective equipment),” Ottavianelli said on the same call. “And this personal connection and these conversations have led us to action.”

Initially, Deere prepared to make 25,000 face shields. Ottavianelli says they then were able to secure enough materials to produce an additional 200,000.

Employees across the company worked together on the design and acquisition of necessary materials, but for now all the production will happen at the John Deere Seeding Group in Moline, which typically makes equipment for planting.

Deere collaborated with the United Auto Workers, which has a local representing Deere employees, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and consulted with area doctors to ensure the final product would be beneficial to front-line healthcare workers.

“We knew that we needed to do more to help the true heroes in this fight against this virus,” Ottavianelli said. “These healthcare professionals, they’re our neighbors, they might even be members of our own families. We all know them, we go to the same churches, schools. They take care of our employees and families.”

Deere officials declined to comment on the prospects for additional production beyond the first 200,000 shields.

Earlier during the pandemic, Deere temporarily closed a location in Dubuque, Iowa, after employees tested positive for COVID-19, but a spokeswoman said normal operations are resuming there. 

Follow Amy on Twitter: @AgAmyinAmes

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames