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Lexmark: Triple Play

In a time of need, Lexmark harnessed M4.0 tools, its innovative culture, and collaborative partnerships to help support the front line.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged everyday life across the globe. As the virus spread and disrupted or completely upended normal daily life, front line healthcare workers increasingly were asked to risk their own lives to care for victims of the virus. Sadly, in town after town, city after city, and country after country, these healthcare workers who were trying to save lives often did not have enough of the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their own lives. The need for an adequate supply of PPE was real and immediate. It was in this moment that Lexmark’s Prototype Technology Center stepped up and filled the need for one hospital in one town, that led to many more being helped.

It started as a conversation over a backyard fence. A Lexmark employee was talking with his neighbor, an emergency room physician in Lexington, Kentucky, who shared that the hospital only had 10 protective face shields for all its healthcare providers and was desperate for more as COVID-19 cases continued to rise. Immediately an idea came to mind.

“I knew our model shop at the Lexington site, which makes prototype printers, could make just about anything, I felt certain we could help,” recalled the Lexmark employee.

Two days later, the first prototype of the face shield was built, tested by the emergency room physicians, and deemed a total success. From there, production was quickly ramped up at rates that filled the need of not only one hospital emergency room, but many across multiple towns and cities.

Speed, flexibility, and the intersection of classic manufacturing techniques with M4.0 technologies made this possible. The equipment, technology, and talent were already present, it just needed to be redirected in a matter of hours. An innovative culture, focused on meeting customer needs, making communities better places to live and work, and learning how to fail fast, was also instrumental. 

Lexmark leveraged 3D printing, digital design, rapid prototyping collaboration with universities, and cross-industry partnerships in this time of need.

“Our motto in the Development Operations organization, which includes the Prototype Technology Center and Corporate Sustainability, is ‘See the Need, Meet the Challenge,’” said Dan Seevers, Director of Development Operations. “We believe community support is a vital part of our corporate social responsibility, and it comes naturally to us to look for ways to help during these uncertain times. We have tools and smart people; it didn’t take anything other than a neighbor talking to a neighbor to see an opportunity to help the local medical community. People helping people is part of our DNA.”

This project led to five more, all focused on meeting the needs of the community and the broader Commonwealth of Kentucky, including manufacturing splash guards, ear guards, intubation boxes, face masks, and nasal swabs. Lexmark leveraged 3D printing, digital design, rapid prototyping collaboration with universities, and cross-industry partnerships in this time of need.

“In this unexpected journey, we have met and collaborated with outstanding people who just a week ago would have passed each other without a glance or acknowledgment,” Seevers said. “Now, I expect that after we work together to do our part to help others, we will keep in touch because of the bonds we have created.”

“Opportunity often comes from the most unlikely sources and there is nothing that reveals true character like a real life-or-death crisis,” added Tom Eade, Lexmark’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. “Lexmark and our local and state community colleagues is an inspiring group to be part of.”   M

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