#AdAstraStrong Star Stories: Vortex

“Ad astra per aspera” is the state motto of Kansas, which translates to “to the stars through difficulties” – a sentiment that has never felt truer than it does today. It emphasizes our values and optimism that, even when faced with the most difficult hardships, we come together as a state and keep our sights set on what’s important. We launched our #AdAstraStrong campaign to highlight “stars” throughout Kansas who are going above and beyond to give back to their community and provide hope during these challenging times. Stay tuned for more star stories and stay #AdAstraStrong.

If you know a Kansas “star” who is shining bright and helping others during the COVID-19 outbreak, nominate them on Facebook by sharing a brief description of their story with the #AdAstraStrong hashtag or email us at social@bcbsks.com. We can’t wait to tell more stories about the inspiring people who are embodying the strength and resiliency of Kansas right now.

We are excited to announce our next star, Vortex. Headquartered in Salina, KS, Vortex has been designing and producing reusable face shields for local healthcare workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Vortex was founded in 1977 and specializes in the design and manufacturing of components for the transport and flow control of dry bulk solids with 380 employees in Salina. Vortex’s equipment is used to produce a wide range of everyday products, such as soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, medicines, bread, cereals, tires and more. More than 20,000 companies across the globe rely on Vortex products. We interviewed CEO Travis Young to learn what Vortex has been doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What has Vortex been doing to support your community during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In accordance with U.S. Homeland Security’s guidelines, Vortex is considered an essential business and remains fully operational. So, when the pandemic spread to Kansas, our priority was to ensure the health and safety of our employees and their families. Our first order of business was to sew cloth masks for our employees.

Once we were able to implement protective measures internally, we reached out to members of the community to identify critical needs. This led us to raise money for the Salina Emergency Aid Food Bank and to start producing face shields for healthcare workers.

What motivated you to produce face shields?

Salina is a very close community and we always strive to take care of each other in difficult times. Initially, we 3D printed 100 disposable face shields from a design that was shared so more companies could create face shields during the COVID-19 pandemic. After delivering the disposable face shields to Salina Regional Health Center, we quickly realized this was not a viable long-term solution.

Our engineering and production team took immediate action and developed a cleanable and reusable face shield that would allow the health center to provide critical personal protective equipment (PPE) in the intensive care unit (ICU) without supply chain interruption. Since then, we have been providing face shields to local charities and the Saline County Health Department, so they may continue to operate safely.

How are you manufacturing the face masks?

At Vortex, we use machine routers to cut out plastic polymer parts for our primary products. This allowed us to make the headbands for the shields rapidly and in bulk. We also utilized our waterjet, more commonly used to cut through thick steel, to gently cut the transparent shields that clip to the headbands.

Using the machines at our disposal allowed us to produce 40 face shield parts in a matter of minutes. So far, Vortex has delivered 400 protective shields to the Salina area and are currently producing 100 more for use in a variety of healthcare operations. Hopefully, that will take care of the immediate needs within the community, but we are always capable of making more.

Have you made any plans to share the reusable face mask design for other companies to utilize?

Vortex would absolutely share the design with any company looking to help their local community. This has been a difficult situation for all of us, but we must be optimistic and seek solutions through these challenging times. This is a moment for everyone to innovate and become more resilient. 

What would you like to tell members of the Salina community or what do you want them to know about your efforts during this time? Salina is a very close-knit community. Vortex is blessed to have its headquarters based here. The compassion, core values and resilience of our team members is a reflection of this city and what it stands for. We are fortunate that Vortex and Salina are able to serve each other in so many ways.

Leave a Reply