Old machine in closed Franklin factory now producing PPE gowns

FRANKLIN, Mass. — In an old factory building in the center of Franklin, a long dormant die cutting machine is alive again, producing life saving Level 4 PPE gowns for hospitals and first responders.

On Friday, state and local officials gathered as “Cutter #2” was fired up for the first time in at least four years. Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka was among the dignitaries watching the new PPE gowns roll out of the die cutter.

“What’s happening here today is so amazingly important,” said Spilka.

Cutter Number Two is located in a factory complex that once belonged to the Clark Cutler McDermott company. Before it closed in 2016, CCM produced upholstery for General Motors.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, a former CCM employee contacted Franklin Town Council Chairman Tom Mercer, asking if the die cutter was still onsite. Luckily, Cutter Number Two and Cutter Number One, located in a different building, were not yet auctioned off.

Mercer contacted Franklin State Representative Jeff Roy, the House Chair of the Manufacturing Conference and together they made more calls, held more meetings, and in six weeks, Cutter Number Two came roaring back to life.

“To be able to put this together, fast track it from virtually something as simple as a phone call to six weeks later, producing PPE gowns for our first responders, hospitals and all the people on the front lines, is just an incredible, incredible sense of pride in our community,” Mercer said.

“Nobody was talking about PPR two month ago, and nobody was concerned that we had to get this stuff overseas,” said Roy. "We now know we can make it. We can make it in Massachusetts, and do a good job. And it’s going to help not only the community of Franklin, but it’s going to help the Commonwealth as a whole.”

The new company producing the PPE gowns is called Contollo, a Latin word which suggests bringing together.

That’s what happened here.

When Cutter Number One joins Cutter Number Two, the combined machines will produce 100,000 Level 4 PPE gowns every week.

“This is a story of hope, and grabbing an opportunity and Massachusetts know-how and taking what had been closed down, older machinery, and renovating it to meet a dire need of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Spilka.

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