UW-Madison website connects hospitals with PPE suppliers

A worker assembles a face shield at Midwest Prototyping in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin - one of more than 120 manufacturers available to produce shields as part of a new online matching platform created by a team from UW–Madison’s College of Engineering and the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Photo courtesy of Jesse Darley, Delve Design.
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- UW-Madison engineers have created an online platform that connects health care facilities with face shield manufacturers.

The university said the platform has already facilitated hundreds of those connections, as hospitals around the world are scrambling to secure enough personal protective equipment to safeguard their workers while treating COVID-19 patients.

Manufacturers all over the world are retooling their production lines to try to fill the gap, but UW-Madison said that still leaves the logistical challenge of matching up the right suppliers with the right buyers.

UW-Madison Science Writer Tom Ziemer said in a press release Thursday that the project is an outgrowth of the university-industry collaboration that created the Badger Shield, an open-source design for medical face shields that's now being used by manufacturers around the country, including Ford.

The system uses a model that matches buyers and sellers based on order quantity and urgency, production capacity, and location.

Within a week, the university said the platform already helped New York City find a manufacturer to supply the city's hospitals with millions of shields.

"So far, more than 100 organizations - mostly health care facilities, but also the U.S. Postal Service, fire departments, homeless shelters, nursing homes and more - have requested more than 6 million face shields using an online form," the press release said. "Drawing on a network of more than 120 manufacturers that range from small shops to established companies like Kohler and some as far away as Australia, the platform has yielded more than 230 matches, totaling 1.8 million shields."

Justin Boutilier, a UW-Madison assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, and Rebecca Alcock, a master's student in biomedical engineering, are leading the project in collaboration with Auyon Siddiq, professor at the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management.

Learn more about the platform here.

A healthcare worker in Cambridge, England, puts on a face shield. A team in Cambridge is producing shields using the open-source Badger Shield design. Photo courtesy of Lucy Jung, Cambridge Judge Business School.