The Kingsgate Clothing Group has started production of cloth masks for everyday use.
Kingsgate Clothing Group executive Ahmed Dhai says government released specifications for masks for the general population just before Easter.
These “very general” specifications note the type of material to be used, and that they must cover two-thirds of the nose, while extending 25 mm below the chin.
Dhai believes the specifications were written in this manner in order to ensure that no one company has a monopoly on mask production in South Africa.
“Currently we are not engaging our entire workforce at the same time, to ensure that we meet all the necessary protocols regarding social distancing,” he notes.
“Every two days we rotate a new team into the factory.”
Kingsgate is currently producing 5 000 to 7 500 reusable, nonporous hydrophobic masks a day, but would like to increase this to 200 000 masks a week.
The company is testing the wash cycle of the product, but current indications are that it can be washed for a minimum of up to 30 washes, with a mask to be changed after a day’s wear.
Kingsgate has opened a webpage to sell its stockpile of masks, as it requires a distribution channel during the current lockdown.
“We started an online channel where anyone can buy our product and have it delivered,” says Dhai.
“If you ever asked me before this whether I would become an online seller, I would have told you ‘never’, but this virus has forced us to rethink our entire business model.”
Dhai adds that everyday use of masks can assist to curb the spread of Covid-19, especially when someone who is ill wears a mask, while it also stops people from touching their faces, which is one simple way to become infected.
“We think there will be a big need for masks at businesses across the country when the lockdown is lifted.”
Dhai says some masks are becoming something of a fashion trend, and that Kingsgate will try to address this need as well when it ramps up production.
The company is also in the process of putting together a personal protection equipment catalogue for companies wishing to source such gear.
Kingsgate is a family-owned business that will celebrate its sixty-fifth birthday in May. The company has a factory in Hammarsdale, near Durban, and produces 95% of its clothing in Southern Africa. It supplies clothing lines to retail outlets such as Mr Price, PEP and Jet, while it also provides various government departments with uniforms, linen and patient wear.
The group employs about 1 000 people directly, as well as roughly 5 500 people indirectly, through, for example, outsourcing to a number of other factories, as well as to printing and embroidery businesses.