Army deployed as manufactuers ramp up production

It's all hands on deck at Whiteley Corporation's hand sanitiser factory near Newcastle. Peter Lorimer

It’s all hands on deck at Whiteley Corporation’s hand sanitiser factory near Newcastle. Peter Lorimer

Makers of surgical protection wear, hospital disinfectants and hand sanitisers are dramatically scaling up production with the aid of the military to meet the urgent demand from government and health authorities as the number of coronavirus cases in Australia passes 2000.

Med-Con, a small family business that manufactures surgical face masks on the outskirts of Shepparton, Victoria, is at the vanguard of this push. The federal government has sent the army into Med-Con’s factory to help the company urgently lift production by at least 10-fold.

Med-con general manager Steven Csiszar said that by the end of the year his small business of fewer than 20 employees and just two machines will be making 20 million to 30 million face masks a year, which he said would be enough to meet surging demand.

In NSW, the country’s biggest manufacturer of medical-grade disinfectant and hand sanitiser, the family-owned Whiteley Corporation near Newcastle, has more than doubled production over the last month but warned it is running dangerously low on key raw materials, such as ethanol.

In addition, the federal government said almost 130 local companies had responded to Canberra’s request for information on their ability to switch to the manufacture of medical goods.