Enough masks only in autumn

Peter Brunsberg borrowed a van at the end of last week and went to Bielefeld. At Dürkopp Adler, the Berliner got a few sewing machines that are urgently needed in Marzahn. There, in a former sports hall, Brunsberg's Bagjack company produces protective masks with 20 people. The first prototypes are ready and approval from the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has also been received. 5000 pieces should be sewn every day in Marzahn.

4.2 million pieces per week

Brunsberg's small company is part of the Fight mask consortium, to which several companies and research institutions, primarily from Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia, have come together to produce 4.2 million masks per week. That is a lot and yet only a fraction of what is needed in this country. The Federal Ministry of Health has just advertised a volume of 50 million masks per week. The submission deadline ends on Tuesday evening, and applicants must deliver the first masks by mid-August at the latest. Whoever participates in the tender must submit an obligation, which quantity at what price by 15. August can be delivered. 50 There won't be millions until autumn, probably not before November. There is simply a lack of manufacturing capacity and, above all, there is not enough fleece.

Everything from China

1985 has the Reifenhäuser Reicofil group from Troisdorf near Bonn put the first spunbonding line into operation – in China. The German textile industry has been largely replaced by Asian companies over the decades. And the sewing machine manufacturers Dürkopp Adler and Pfaff are now also in Chinese hands. The currently extremely hot product, protective masks, comes almost exclusively from China.

“After the supply chains to Asia have broken down, our companies have built up new supply chains for the production of protective clothing in one effort,” says Uwe Mazura, head of the German Textile Association, the situation. “The corona crisis shows us with all its force how important an own industry is here in Europe.” There is still a textile and fashion industry here with 1400 entrepreneurs and 135 000 employees. In addition to laundry and home textiles, family businesses in particular produce high-quality yarns and fabrics as well as technical textiles for the automotive industry, aerospace and construction. Nonwovens are also manufactured in Germany, but to a larger extent only at two medium-sized companies: Sandler in Franconia and Innovatec in Troisdorf near Bonn. Sandler now primarily supplies the Lower Bavarian automotive supplier Zettl, who switched production to masks on behalf of the Bavarian state government. Sandler no longer accepts orders and asks potential customers not to report before June.

From Troisdorf abroad

The plants of Innovatec in North Rhine-Westphalia currently produce nonwoven material for around ten million masks a day. That is a lot and would cover the needs in this country. However, the fleece goes exclusively abroad, very much to France, but mask manufacturers in Sweden and Holland, Spain, Bosnia and Romania also process the material from Troisdorf, according to the company. All these countries had their own masks on the market faster than the Federal Republic, which is now trying to catch up and is therefore funding the production of mask fleece with 40 million euros.

30 percent paid by the federal government

Innovatec decides this week whether to install a new system at the Swiss Oerlikon or ordered from Neighbour's neighbor Reifenhäuser Reicofil for a higher single-digit million amount. The federal government or the German taxpayer is involved with 30 percent of the total investment. “We have inquiries without end,” says Reifenhäuser, and you hardly know how to process the orders. The machine manufacturer has reduced the delivery time for systems for the production of the crucial middle material layer for respiratory masks to 3.5 months. But then it takes more months until the gigantic fleece system is installed and can also go into operation. At best October, Innovatec calculates, you could start, November is realistic. In other words: The 50 million masks targeted by the federal government are only available in autumn. Maybe only in winter, as the mask consortium Fight thinks.

A lot of work on the sewing machine

Until then there should also be machines that More or less automatically bring together the fleece and ribbons and temples, fold the masks and weld them using ultrasound so that thousands do not have to sit on the sewing machine. After all, there is currently this workforce: Berlin-based bagjack boss Brunsberg has borrowed seamstresses for a few months who are actually employed in stand construction. Trade fairs in Germany are unlikely before autumn.