All Hands on Deck for PPE Textile Supply Chain

Contempora Fabrics’ baseball uniform fabric repurposed for masks and gowns.

“Coordinating with local hospitals, healthcare organizations, the entire U.S production chain and federal agencies, the textile industry has been at the forefront of the incredible manufacturing effort, contributing to the companies’ rapid response to the rising needs of frontline workers,” said Kim Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) in a recent statement.

In less than two months the domestic textile community has stepped up big time to help fill the void of available PPE products, adjusting production lines on a dime to make masks, gowns, shoe covers and scrubs.

Giving scope to this massive effort, Unifi reports that the Greensboro-based company is now providing yarns and fibers to more than 100 companies producing personal protective equipment to first responders, medical personnel and military. “We have customers actively engaged in the fight against COVID-19,” said Tom Caudle, Unifi’s president and COO.

For example, Unifi customer Phenix Engineered Textiles, based in South Carolina, supplies elastic strapping for facemasks. Unifi supplies the fiber to Phenix Engineered Textiles, and the yellow yarn for the familiar yellow straps is dyed in Unifi’s dyehouse in Reidsville, N.C.

“We’ve had to ramp up production to keep up with the demand,” said Rod Grandy, CEO of Phenix Engineered Textiles. “Unifi is a vital part of our business, and it would be difficult to keep pace with heightened demand without such a reliable partner. U.S. manufacturers are often overlooked, but this local supply chain is precisely why we haven’t missed a beat.”

Unifi customer Contempora Fabrics, based in Lumberton, NC, normally supplies fabric for baseball uniforms this time of year, but this season’s fabric is shifting to the production of medical masks and gowns. The factory using Contempora’s fabric is located in Pennsylvania and is owned by sports gear producer Fanatics. The repurposed fabric is 100 percent polyester sourced from Unifi’s operations in Yadkinville, N.C.

A list of Unifi textile partners participating in PPE production is available here: