It is not just in Malaysia that glove makers are expanding. US nitrile glove maker Showa Group, which is the country’s only nitrile glove maker, is doubling production at its Alabama facility. Work on the US$20 million project includes the addition of two new lines that will each produce about 200 million gloves/year, a move that will double current capacity.
The first line is expected to be operational in April 2021 with the second line up and running in May, said Richard Heppell, CEO for Americas, Oceania and EMEA at Showa. The expansion comes against the back of Covid-19 that has driven demand for gloves and PPEs.
The company is making gloves in the US, with higher costs compared Asia, and broke ground on the current project almost a year ago.
In the midst of the pandemic, the US is consuming nearly 45-50 billion gloves/month. Not only is less than half of all PPE (gloves, masks, respirators, etc.) manufactured in North America, but more than 95% of PPE glove supply is currently manufactured in Asia (predominantly China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand). This means the US is vulnerable to foreign supply chain disruptions. American glove production, in relation to the global supply, is less than 1%.
Showa expects to hire between 80 and 100 new workers at the facility once the two new lines are up and running. A total of 27 additional employees already are on board. Another 80 or so workers could be added in the future if the two additional lines are eventually installed, as Heppell said it takes about 40 to run each new line.
Installation of the two new lines will push production from 400 million to 800 million gloves/year in Fayette. The addition of two more lines in the future would push that total to 1.2 billion.