Wednesday Wisdom: Max Preston, general manager of Axiom’s Smart Attend division

Aurora, Ontario — Amid the pandemic many automotive companies have switched gears and began producing PPE to help support health care workers, and to make up for low supply demands. 

When the pandemic reached Canada, Aurora, Ont.-based Axiom Auto Parts began manufacturing much-needed PPE for the front lines⁠. Now, the company is preparing to release its face shields to Canadian consumers and is working to finalize a deal with a national retail chain. 

Collision Repair caught up with Max Preston, the general manager of Smart Attend, the division that spear-headed the production of Axiom’s face shield production, to hear how the company transitioned from auto parts to face shields in a matter of weeks, and learn more about the benefits Axiom has experienced in retooling its operations. 

CR: Why did Axiom begin producing face shields?

MP: Axiom is an automotive supplier and, of course, when COVID-19 started to reach North America and the shutdown was issued across the country and continent, our production basically stopped. Not a single assembly factory that we ship parts to was running. 

We immediately switched our focus over to producing face shields, using our plastic injunction molding machines that we typically use for automotive supplies. 

CR: You guys switched right over once the pandemic hit?

MP: We had a lot of advantages that allowed us to do it so fast. The biggest advantage, really, is we have multiple divisions underneath Axiom that are vertically integrated for manufacturing. 

Intex Tooling is our own sister company here at Axiom and they are a mold shop. So, it’s our second location in Aurora, they produce the mold, they designed the cavitation for it, the processes for it. So we were able to go from decision of: we are going to make face shields, to production, in as little as about three weeks. So, very fast. 

CR: It is amazing how quickly you were able to do that. 

MP: Yeah you know there were a lot of challenges, a lot of late nights, but at the end of it we will do what we needed to do and it’s really neat how quickly we were able to come to market. 

CR: Can the general public buy the face shields or are they only for health care workers?

MP: We were originally going to target the medical industry with our face shields, but there is a growing conversation happening⁠—specifically, within the CDC as well as globally with the World Health Organization⁠—where they are discussing about the benefits of the general public using the face shields. 

The idea is the face masks that everyone is wearing are great but what they really do is just protect other people from your droplets. So, in order to actually achieve protection from other people,if they’re not wearing a facemaskthat’s where the faceshield comes into play.

We absolutely see a growing level of demand from the general public for the face shields. The general public is absolutely able to use them and purchase them for themselves. We are working with a number of distributors and wholesalers in order to actually reach the general public. So, they can actually purchase the Axiom face shields. 

CR: Do you think Axiom will start to become more of a PPE manufacturer rather than sticking with the  automotive side?

MP: I’m so happy you asked that question. I am actually the general manager of a different division of Axiom, called Smart Attend, where we design and develop manufacturing efficiency monitoring systems—which we then sell globally to our customer-base. But, with the face shield project, obviously as business slowed down in the other divisions, we knew that we did not want Axiom PPE to be a temporary thing. 

We’re really going to be putting our product design and development resources together and we started asking the question now, which is ‘okay if you are being supplied face shields that’s great, what do you need next? And how can we service you and how can we supply you.’ 

We have a wide-range of knowledge on product design, so we built AxiomPPE.com. It was the first thing that I did, I bought a domain name for that, knowing that the face shields would be just the beginning. 

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