Industries for the Blind (IFB) Asheville recently started production on a $10.5 million contract with the US Marine Corps to make all-purpose poncho liners for their troops. 214,000 liners will be delivered over the next 12 months.
“We are excited about this new contract for many reasons; it means our current employees have plenty of work, and we are hiring 18 new employees to help us produce the liners,” said Randy Buckner, Director of Operations for IFB Asheville.
IFB has produced every poncho liner for the military for the past 20 years, but this poncho liner is special. The Marines wanted a liner with a zipper that could function as a sleeping bag. They also wanted additional waterproof coating on the outside of the fabric so it would keep soldiers dry without using the poncho. In addition to working as a sleeping bag, the liners can serve as sleeping bag inserts, blankets or ground cover.
IFB worked with NATICK, the organization that develops products for our troops, to create the liner. Buckner explained that IFB developed the prototype, did some tweaking, and then helped write the specifications.
“One important aspect of the liner is the zipper, which is polyester,” said Buckner. “Incorporating this type of zipper allows a soldier to leave his or her bag quickly and quietly.”
IFB employees must produce an average of 900 all-purpose liners per day to stay on track with this contract. Although it’s early in the contract, Buckner says IFB employees are already making that happen.