When the nation couldn’t protect frontline healthcare workers, the U.S. government turned to BMNT to bypass the bottlenecks. The result was a newly designed N95 mask in production within weeks.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 masks were in short supply for front-line healthcare workers. Traditional manufacturers couldn’t keep up with the surging demand.
The CARES Act provided resources for the Department of Defense (DOD) to address the enormous backlog given its superior logistics capabilities. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) manages the global supply chain for the DOD – everything from food and water for troops to the repair parts needed to get military equipment ready for operations.
Because the CARES Act resources alone could not immediately relieve the supply chain bottlenecks, the DOD and DLA asked BMNT to help them come up with a different approach.
BMNT’s sprint model is designed for creative problem-solving. It allowed us to bring key stakeholders together quickly, including N95 contractors, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, U.S. Air Force Nexus Program, Yale Medical School, and the Joint Acquisition Task Force.
It took the team just a few days to design a new N95 mask using readily available filter material that could bypass supply chain bottlenecks. BMNT also helped the team put a new strategy in place to address the policy, technical, and organizational hurdles that often constrain innovation. This included a plan for regulatory approval, testing, and potential pivots for the N95 team.
Using BMNT’s approach, the project sped forward in record time. It became the first DOD-funded mask to be approved as an N95 respirator by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Within weeks, a quarter of a million masks were in production, giving frontline healthcare workers life-saving protection when they needed it most.
The DLA also replicated the process and methods used in this project to advance its work elsewhere. The DLA Technology Accelerator is applying the approach to advance a wide range of work from additive manufacturing to innovative satellite terminals.