IRIS USA, the U.S. division of Japanese-based household products manufacturer IRIS Ohyama Inc., has announced plans to add face mask production to its 570,000-square-foot, 250-employee manufacturing plant in Pleasant Prairie, WI. The new capability will support federal mask-wearing recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control on April 3 to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
The company is investing $10 million in new machinery and planning to hire an additional 60 employees to enable manufacture of an estimated 70 million disposable 3-ply face masks per month. IRIS Ohyama has been producing masks in China for more than a decade and is a major mask supplier to the Japanese government.
The first U.S.-produced masks are expected to be available shortly after the new manufacturing line is completed in September. In the interim, IRIS Ohyama is shipping masks to the U.S. from its factory in China to help address the severe shortage. The first shipment is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. by the end of the month.
The Wisconsin plant will continue to manufacture plastic storage and pet products when the mask operation comes online. IRIS USA is also exploring opportunities to add other kinds of masks to its U.S. output.
The Wisconsin effort is part of a broader initiative that also includes adding mask production to IRIS’s manufacturing operations in Japan, Korea and Europe in anticipation of long-term global increases in mask adoption expected after current coronavirus crisis passes.
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