July 6 marked a new era in COVID-19 swab production. This is the date our new manufacturing plant came online and began making the specialized foam swabs needed for COVID-19 testing.
Because we’re the only U.S. manufacturer of the preferred foam swab used for testing, we were awarded a contract under the Federal Defense Production Act to expand our capacity as quickly as possible.
We began work on a new manufacturing plant immediately, with two teams working virtually around the clock. We leased 100,000 square feet of space in an old smoke detector factory in Pittsfield, ME, rebuilding much of it with our construction partner Cianbro. We work with a local naval shipbuilder, Bath Ironworks, to machine the highly specialized equipment needed to produce our swabs.
While a project of this type normally takes 18-20 months, with the help of our partners, we were able to begin swab production in just 8 weeks. And 5 months later, the plant was completed.
Prior to opening Pittsfield, we were making 20 million foam swabs per month. The goal set forth by the Defense Production Act government contact was to increase capacity by another 20 to 40 million swabs per month. We’re excited to report that Pittsfield is already turning out 40 million and is on track to increase production to 90 million swabs per month!
Our new plant has also led to the creation of over 300 new jobs in the rural community of Pittsfield, ME. It’s great to help bring back manufacturing jobs that were once so prevalent in central Maine.
Our company headquarters and original manufacturing plant is located about 30 miles north of Pittsfield in Guilford, ME. Unlike the Guilford facility which manufactures 65 types of swabs and 1,200 different products in general, Pittsfield’s state-of-the-art plant is highly specialized, making just one type of product. This has allowed us to produce swabs faster and more efficiently as well as improve our product flow to create an even better environment for our workers.
Similar to many U.S. manufacturers, over the past 10 years, our team has worked diligently to fight back competition from Chinese imports. We’re proud to say that all our swabs are manufactured here in the USA. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened if we had not succeeded in these efforts —and our country was currently competing for swabs in the global market.
With demand for COVID-19 testing swabs continuing to outpace supply, we’re currently building a third production facility in a former shoe factory also in Pittsfield, slated to open in March 2021. This will boost our overall capacity by another 50 million swabs per month and help us better meet demand for Puritan’s other products, which have been in short supply since the pandemic began.
Once the pandemic is behind us, demand for testing supplies is predicted to be strong for years to come. We look forward to whatever challenges lie ahead. And we’re excited to be able to do our part to fight the pandemic, saving the world one swab at a time.
Special thanks to all our customers who have been on this journey with us. And if you are interested in working and living in rural Maine, we just may have a great job for you.