SEMINOLE — S.S. White Technologies, a local manufacturing company, has shown its creative and fighting spirits by setting up a quick production line to make face masks and distribute them free of cost.

The company makes components for aircraft systems. Its parts are used in 95% of all the airplanes in the world. Its subsidiary, SHUKLA Medical, manufactures orthopedic instruments. The companies operated in New Jersey for decades, but in 2018 purchased a manufacturing building from eyeglass manufacturer Essilor off Park Street in Seminole and relocated its operation to Florida.

The management stayed a step ahead of the worsening crisis of COVID-19. When the total cases reached only 4,000, Rahul Shukla, owner and president of the company, called a general meeting and told all employees that things will get much worse soon. Three weeks ago, the management rearranged the workspaces to create a minimum of 6 feet of distance between workstations. They allowed non-manufacturing workers to work from home, broke a single shift into three shifts and announced an appreciation bonus of $30 per day for all production workers. The company quickly changed all faucets and fixtures in all the restrooms so that employees do not need to touch handles, faucets or towel dispensers. The company installed foot pedals on the doors so employees do not have to touch the door handles. They revised their badge reader system, which allows employees to clock in and out, to be hands-free through their proprietary software. They installed additional hand sanitizers and purchased a large supply of disposable gloves. Purchasing masks proved to be a problem. The management knew if the governor issued a stay-at-home order, the company would be required to stay open because they manufacture critical aerospace and automotive parts as well as medical products. Therefore, it was important to have face masks for the protection of employees who need to come to work.

"Our engineers can design intricate medical instruments and aerospace parts,” Shukla said. “Why can't they quickly design washable cloth masks?"

Sheryl Sheppard, HR manager, was asked to head the project. Brian Servedio, design engineer, whose expertise is in making metal instruments to extract worn out orthopedic implants, came up with a design for a washable, reusable mask with creative nuances.

By April 6, five production lines were up and running in the cafeteria. The masks will be supplied at no cost, first to the company’s 125 employees, then for the employees’ immediate families, then to any local medical organization that requests it, and then for employees of other local manufacturers.

"We know how to design and manufacture complex aerospace and medical parts. Making masks is child's play for our team," said Subra Naglapura, company vice president.

“S.S. White is to be lauded for their efforts,” said Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters in a press release issued by the company. “My personal compliment to Mr. Shukla, S.S. White president, a true leader in our community.”