AA Vietnam President Greig Craft turns helmet factory into assembly line to make masks | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

AA Vietnam President Greig Craft turns helmet factory into assembly line to make masks

30.03.20

AA Vietnam President Greig Craft is turning part of his helmet factory into an assembly line to make face masks and possibly gowns and ventilators.  

“The drop in business was almost immediate after Covid-19 hit. Orders were not coming in. So I thought, we could set up production lines to assemble about three million masks a month”, said AA Vietnam President Greig Craft, who, in 2000, established the AIP Foundation’s social enterprise helmet factory Protec.

To start researching and raise funds for the machinery he needed, Craft went online and began talking to people, and posting on social media, much as he had done with the helmet initiative twenty years earlier.

“Within hours, I had 158 replies,” Craft said. He also reached out to investors, U.S. government officials and the Vietnamese ambassador in Washington. “It feels like a strange quirk of fate that Vietnam might be in a position to lend humanitarian assistance to the U.S.”  

“I’ve lined up the machinery,” Craft said. “We’ve got the order ready to go and we’ve already laid out the basic plan for what we can do with the factory. We will get the equipment either from Taiwan or China, probably within three weeks, and it could be up and running in 30 to 45 days."

The Protec factory, which was the world’s first nonprofit helmet making plant, has for years been giving people with disabilities an opportunity to work, so they can feed and care for themselves and their families, while doing something good for society. All profits go back into the local community for road safety education, road safety public awareness campaigns, and road safety advocacy and legislation.

Masks would initially be sent to Italy, Spain and the United States, followed by other countries, said Craft. He also organizes operations for children in Vietnam with severe genital problems, predominantly with a team of Italian surgeons. 

“As Italy became so badly impacted with Covid-19, it became obvious that they desperately needed help,” he said. “How could we not assist people who have been so good to us? And then the meltdown in the U.S. was starting. Being American, I wanted to do what I could for those back home.”

Craft said Vietnam’s regulations that cap medical supplies leaving the country could cause some delay in shipping surgical masks, but 100% cotton reusable masks are not impacted and he may be able to obtain material to make 200,000 of them right away. 

“They would be a good stopgap measure,” he said. “Doctors, nurses and health care workers are even buying scarves to wrap around their faces.”  

Craft said the work would be labor intensive, but it would not be an issue with his capable workforce. “Many of our workers are physically disabled, from traffic crashes or birth anomalies, but they are among our best workers. They learn quickly. They’re very, very adaptable to anything, even if they’re in a wheelchair. So, we won’t have any problem with manpower.”

“I don’t think the crisis we’re in is by any means short term. Even if it miraculously ends in six months, I think we’re on to something that can be ongoing” Craft said. “It’s really just a matter of being able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and make it happen. Sometimes the simple ideas are the ones that are the most impactful.  I hope this initiative will inspire people. You don’t have to have a ton of money, you know, just get out and do something.