Ottawa

Stittsville plant turns attention to COVID-19 test kits

While businesses everywhere are closing their doors and laying off workers, one manufacturer in Stittsville is looking to more than double its workforce as it ramps up production of COVID-19 test kits.

L-D Tool & Die looking to hire 70 workers as production ramps up

Workers prepare to switch gear to COVID-19 test kit production at L-D Tool & Die in Stittsville. (Laurie Dickson)

While businesses everywhere are closing their doors and laying off workers, one manufacturer in Stittsville is looking to more than double its workforce as it ramps up production of COVID-19 test kits.

"We're starting up seven days a week, 24-hour days," said Laurie Dickson, owner of L-D Tool & Die.

Dickson said by the end of April, one million of the needed kits will have rolled off the assembly line at the Iber Road plant, which specializes in plastic injection-moulding and product assembly.

To meet the demand, Dickson needs to hire 70 new employees in addition to the 30 who already work at the plant. They'll start off with simple tasks like packing boxes before helping out with the more skilled work, he said.

At full capacity, Dickson said the plant will be able to produce 1.5 million test kits per month.

A worldwide shortage of the kits, coupled with lengthy wait times for test results, has presented a major barrier in keeping the spread of the virus in check.

'We're very excited and we're very proud that we're able to help with what's going on in the world,' says L-D Tool & Die owner Laurie Dickson. (submitted by Laurie Dickson)

L-D Tool & Die will produce swabs, tubes and packaging for longtime local clients Spartan Bioscience, which recently developed a portable test for COVID-19 based on technology similar to its DNA test kits. 

The new portable devices will make testing easier and faster, and could be used at airports, public spaces and in communities that are not located near major health centres.

Spartan Bioscience CEO Paul Lem said he expects the tests will be approved by Health Canada and ready to ship in a couple of weeks.

Dickson said it feels good to embark on a  project that will help combat the spread of the virus.

Laurie Dickson, owner of L-D Tool & Die in Stittsville, says his company, which specializes in plastic injection molding, is hiring new workers and will now manufacture plastic pieces for COVID-19 test kits. 0:39

"I feel I'm doing something for my country," he said. "We're very excited and we're very proud that we're able to help with what's going on in the world."

Lem suggested one of the legacies of this health crisis will be a greater confidence in made-in-Canada solutions.

"We had these Canadian innovators who actually helped us solve the problem, and then for the future we can actually have more homegrown innovations that we then export to the world."

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