India to soon airlift critical machines from China for making protective coveralls

Mumbai: India will soon air lift from China machines needed to manufacture protective coveralls, according to apparel manufacturers who have rejigged their factories to make personal protective equipment (PPE).

At least two apparel makers, which had ordered about 60 hot-air seam sealing machines from China, are expecting deliveries by the end of this week, ET has learnt.

Prior to the lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, India had about 150 such machines.

Coveralls, or body suits, are glued at the seams using a special tape and a sealing machine to prevent contaminants from getting in. One sealing machine can seal about 100-110 suits a day and costs about $5,000 (Rs 3.8 lakh) a unit. India is looking to make about 100,000 suits per day.

PPE makers had come up with another solution — manually applying locally sourced tapes to seal stitched coveralls.

“I don’t recommend that because you are dealing with people’s lives here. And when you apply these things manually, there is always the danger that it will be inconsistent,” said Gautam Nair, managing director of Gurugram-based Matrix Clothing, which has ordered 30 such machines from China.

Bengaluru-based Texport Industries’ director Shailesh Goenka also voiced a similar opinion.

Texport has also ordered 30 machines from China.

The two companies put together could make about 7,000 suits a day once the machines arrive.

Coveralls are worn by healthcare workers to protect themselves while treating Covid-19 infected patients. Other PPE include N-95 masks, gloves, goggles and shoe cover.

The lack of sealing machines proved to be a bottleneck for India to become self-sufficient with regard to its PPE requirements, ET had reported on April 9.

An apparel maker using manual tapes to make coveralls agreed that there could be inconsistencies if the work were to be done manually. “But if it is done diligently, it can be 99% accurate,” said Amit Sethi, joint managing director at NCR-based Orient Fashions.

Moreover, the machines also slow down the manufacturing process, he said.

A factory can make about 10,000 coveralls a day, but there would not be enough machines to seal all of them. The machines also require upfront capital investment.

“In the present circumstances, manual taping is the right solution,” Sethi said.

His company has yet to receive approval from the South India Textile Research Association (SITRA), one of the notified agencies without whose approval the central government does not purchase PPEs.

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