Clothing Company Pivots Towards Making PPEs to Help Combat COVID-19
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Mondetta Clothing Company has called Winnipeg home since it was founded in a basement by two sets of brothers nearly four decades ago. The name means “small world” and was chosen to reflect the technological advancements of the mid 1980s that were bringing the global community together in ways that had not been possible before.
One of the founding brothers, Prashant Modha, CPA, CMA, took some time to talk with us about how things are going for the company during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the way they have pivoted to help ensure frontline healthcare workers have access to vital personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We have overcome so many obstacles since we founded the company almost 35 years ago,” says Modha. “This is just another challenge for us to rise above.”
The company distributes its apparel across multiple brands through some of the world’s largest retailers including Walmart, Costco and TJ Maxx.
“We’ve had some orders postponed which certainly poses logistical challenges--including the fact we still have to store the product and warehouse space is always in short supply, especially now,” Modha explains. “Our customers have been very good to us though. We’ve been able to adjust production where necessary to ensure a minimal impact.”
Like many businesses, Mondetta has sent most of its employees home to conduct business remotely.
“We actually had a head start in planning for remote work related to COVID-19 because of our relationships with suppliers across Asia. We knew that a prolonged shutdown was a real possibility, so we started testing our systems and planning our processes. By the middle of March, we were ready to work remotely,” he says.
The company has appropriate distancing protocols in place for the few staff who remain in the warehouse, handle the physical product and fulfill online orders.
Modha explains that while there has been a dip in demand for Mondetta’s products across the board, they have been able to avoid some of the global supply chain challenges that other companies have encountered.
“We work with 53 different factories in 13 countries and this has helped us shift production around the world so we can meet all of our orders on time. When China was experiencing significant challenges, we were able to rely on other centres. Going forward, our diverse supply chain is a significant advantage as it appears countries will continue to be affected at different times,” Modha explains.
Those global contacts along with its vast manufacturing and procurement experience recently led the company to sign a multi-million dollar contract with the Government of Manitoba to produce medical scrubs.
“As a Manitoba-based company we want to help provide as much support as we can to our frontline healthcare workers and our community."
Mondetta has been working with Health Canada and recently obtained its Class I and II medical device establishment devices which allows them to import key medical products.
“For the medical gowns, we have retooled a factory that would typically produce woven shirts,” Modha says.
They’ve also embraced the challenge to move quickly. For example, one factory was offline for only six days while it was being repurposed for the medical equipment. The factories being used for most of the production are those based in China and Vietnam, since capacity doesn’t exist closer to home.
Another reason Mondetta is well suited to the task of delivering high quality medical equipment is that all factories they work with are Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) certified. The designation identifies facilities who adhere to safe, lawful, human and ethical manufacturing through certification and education.
The ability to adapt has been key to the success of the company over the years. While Mondetta’s apparel business continues –the company has seen a spike in casual wear as people stay home – the initiative has helped Mondetta keep on nearly all Winnipeg staff.
Recently, other provinces have reached out to Mondetta to seek out its overseas expertise.
“I think the importance of coming together and working as both local and global communities is the only way we will overcome this pandemic. It’s a group effort of everyone doing their part,” says Modha.
It’s fitting that Mondetta’s iconic “undivided” sweatshirts – featuring flags of countries and cooperative human initiatives such as the European Union – continue to be the company’s most iconic piece of apparel. Although they didn’t know it when the design was conceived in 1986, the core idea and concept remain more relevant than ever.