Cambridge Mask CEO Q&A with BNN Bloomberg: Managing High Demand due to the Coronavirus Outbreak
With COVID-19 now present in several countries, many companies are unable to match the demand for face masks needed by customers. In an interview with Bloomberg, our Founder and Chief Executive Officer discussed the high-quality production standards our masks meet. He also talked about how Cambridge Mask Co. is managing unprecedented demand for masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
BLOOMBERG: Get us started with how much of an impact your business is seeing from this outbreak?
CAMBRIDGE MASK: It’s been completely overwhelming. We are a small business and we’ve been absolutely flooded with demand. Sales are 12-15 times what we would normally expect and we have had to deal with something like eleven hundred Customer Service inquiries every single day. So it’s taking a lot of effort from the team and we're working all the hours we've got to try and deliver masks to those people who need them.
BLOOMBERG: What has that meant for your supply chain? Because I know that some of the masks are also assembled within China and Indonesia. We have seen China actually implement some bans when it comes to the export of these masks.
CAMBRIDGE MASK: Yes, that’s right. We use British military technology developed for chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare in the mask that’s manufactured in the UK. But the masks are assembled in Indonesia and China. In terms of export...we are considered facial personal protective equipment, rather than medical masks used in hospitals. So we can export and supply to customers in over 70 countries around the world. We are pre-ordering on our website now.
BLOOMBERG: Chris, how easy is it to ramp up production given the demand has surged too. What’s the lesson learned in terms of how quickly you’re able to try to meet demand?
CAMBRIDGE MASK: Well, unfortunately, we are not a software company so we can’t just buy more server capacity. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of hours from the production team.
Particularly with a product based company you’re only as fast as your slowest component. So we have to work very hard to make sure all of our suppliers can meet our demands. With the factory closures in China, even if we’ve got people in our separate production facility, our suppliers may not, and the raw material suppliers might not either. It has taken a couple of weeks to gear everything up. But fortunately, we are now about 10 times increased from our normal output so we should be able to meet the demand that is being thrown at us the moment from our website.
BLOOMBERG: Does that include an expectation over rising demand now outside of China, from the North America market and from markets like Australia as well?
CAMBRIDGE MASK: We had two booms, one was in late January-early February as China start deteriorating rapidly. There was a big increase in demand from Hong Kong, surrounding China and domestically in China as well, and then, things calmed down quite a bit. We had the second surge as Italy got bad, as Europe started to react, and now America is getting more severe.
We expected to see a second boom or third boom come through from the USA as the situation deteriorates there, as well.
BLOOMBERG: Who are your biggest customer? Do you work directly with governments as well?
CAMBRIDGE MASK: We supply the government of Nepal and a number of U.S embassies have also ordered for their diplomatic teams as well as the British, German, and Swiss embassies. We do work with corporations so…, this is the British Airways mask we made that they gave to first-class passengers flying to Delhi and Beijing a while ago.
So we do a lot of corporate partnerships as well. We’ve delivered to Deliveroo for example for their riders in the UK to protect them from air pollution more generally.
So that’s a lot of different use cases. But I founded the company because I was working in China and I saw a lot of young kids getting sick from air pollution. They were growing up thinking the sky should be coloured in grey in pictures and that coughing all day was normal. I felt no child should believe that as a normal experience. So I developed a mask that can help protect children and adults from air pollution. Now we’ve seen this massive global demand as well. So, we are working as hard as we can to help as many people as we can.
BLOOMBERG: But we’re getting sort of mixed messages when it comes to how effective these masks are. What do you think?
CAMBRIDGE MASK: It is very frustrating hearing people in very elevated positions say blanket statements like ‘masks don’t work’ because a mask is…you know…there’s a huge spectrum of what a mask is. You can have a full-face thing with military technology and it will filter pretty much everything under the sun. Or, you can have a little piece of paper surgical mask or cotton fabric which, of course, isn’t going to do a lot for you.
As I mentioned earlier our masks use a military technology developed for chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare protection, they are tested filter 99.6 percent of viruses.
We have a huge battery of tests from all kinds of government labs in the US, Europe, Asia, all over the world, showing they are effective.
So when I’m flying with my daughter, who’s three and half years old on an aeroplane, I give her one of our masks and I know she’s safe.
We have thousands of customers all over the world with really severe respiratory diseases or low immune systems, doing chemotherapy. It is absolutely vital they get a mask that they can trust and know works and I can give that confidence.
BLOOMBERG: Chris, presuming you’re not sick. Are you wearing a mask when you’re out and about these days?
CAMBRIDGE MASK: In the UK, until recently, not so much. But there’s been two cases confirmed in the area where I live in the UK now. Maybe I'll start considering it...if you come in close contact with people because you can be asymptomatic for 14 days. If you’re dealing with young children or very elderly people, there’s a small chance that you may be carrying the virus.
In my personal opinion, it can be worthwhile wearing the mask. Of course, everyone has to make their own decision and seek medical advice about whether they should wearing one or not.