By:  / Specialty Fabrics Review The Greater Good.

For four days every year, IFAI Expo offers industry members the opportunity to share trade secrets and take advantage of educational opportunities, product demonstrations and certification options.

A new addition this year is Manufacturing for Good. The live manufacturing experience demonstrates the making of a duffel bag from start to finish, with a philanthropic twist: all bags will be donated to Raintree Children & Family Services, a nonprofit organization that assists at-risk children and youth in the greater New Orleans area.

Practical and positive

The idea for the event came to Jeff Sponseller, executive vice president of Ohio-based manufacturer Miller Weldmaster Corp., while attending a recent trade show in France that benefited Doctors without Borders. His company, which manufactures welding equipment, made tents and cots for the nonprofit to use in the field. Sponseller suggested a similar idea to IFAI’s Cutting and Welding Committee, which jumped at the opportunity.

“We were immediately onboard with the idea of creating trade show excitement through a charity-driven collaboration of IFAI member companies,” says Christine Gerard, IFAI Equipment Division supervisor and one of the main organizers of the event, with Magda Ronningen, IFAI National Program Manager for the Makers Division.

The pop-up factory will highlight machines from nine manufacturers as they create more than 200 duffel bags over the course of ten hours, assembly-line style. “We wanted to show IFAI members how our equipment works,” says Sponseller, “and at the same time, create a usable product that would have a positive impact on the community.”

The duffel bag project

Planning for the project began with a series of IFAI member committee meetings, followed by consultations with two IFAI member fabricators. Porcupine Canvas Manufacturing Ltd. assisted with the lean manufacturing layout and provided advice on the duffel bag construction, and Wyoming Canvas donated two duffel bags, along with the duffel bag pattern. Next, the committee sent the pattern to Miller Weldmaster to determine which part of the bag could be welded. Autometrix Inc. received a bag and the pattern in advance of the event, which allowed them to redesign and digitize a new pattern to store in the automated cutter.

Since it was IFAI’s first experience with creating a portable factory on the show floor, “It required a steep learning curve and lots of collaboration and expert advice from our membership,” says Gerard.

Autometrix will use its automated cutting machine to cut out the bags’ pattern, and JTE Machine Systems Inc. will showcase its tabletop grommet machine to install grommets on the bags. Miller Weldmaster and Forsstrom High Frequency AB will be demonstrating welding on the pocket and ends of the bags with their radio frequency (RF) and hot air welders, and the bags will be put together with sewing machines by Juki America Inc. Fabric for the bags was donated by Snyder Mfg Inc. and Vertilux Ltd., with thread from FIL-TEC Inc. and webbing and zippers from YKK (U.S.A.) Inc.

Typically, products created in similar demonstrations are simply discarded after trade shows. Instead, Manufacturing for Good is putting the finished duffel bags to good use by donating them to Raintree.

“The best part is the product we’re making isn’t just something we’re going to throw away—a local charity is going to benefit,” says Sponseller.

Jahna Peloquin is a writer and editor based in Minneapolis, Minn. This article was originally published by the Specialty Fabrics Review September issue

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