Hi Reddit, I 'm Lloyd Armbrust, the founder / CEO of Armbrust American. I built a mask factory in Austin, TX capable of producing up to 1.2 million masks a day.

With a global bidding war driving prices to all-time highs, frontline workers are struggling to get the personal protective equipment they need. "Arbitrage" companies, hoping to profit from the situation, have begun buying up stockpiles of masks from China, often selling them at inflated prices.

Rather than become another middle-man, I recognized the need to mass-produce personal protective equipment here, in America.

After several months of work, the production lines in our Austin, TX factory are running 24/7. We are producing over 1 million FDA approved masks a day, at lower prices than the cheapest Chinese masks on Amazon.

I'm here to answer any and all of your coronavirus mask questions! AMA!

Website: https://www.armbrustusa.com/

News Coverage: KXAN Austin-American Statesman

Proof: https://twitter.com/larmbrust/status/1266054517382094848?s=20

EDIT: Thanks for all the questions! Stepping away for a bit but I'll check back later!

Comments: 84 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

kingslayer_0712 karma

Probably going to get downvoted/banned but I'm a supply chain professional, currently in Dallas. Questions I have:

  1. How did you decide to use Austin to set up your plant?
  2. What are the biggest logistical challenges you have faced, domestically and internationally, to set up the operation?
  3. .....do you need a new face in your supply chain department?

armbrustUSA12 karma

  1. My kids live here
  2. Actually a weird one... it's not getting things here it's getting our masks in packages to people in the United States is literally killing me... might die soon... we have too many orders and the process to fulfill is not existent.
  3. If you can make problem #2 go away then yes please help me I'm dying here :)

genericwhitemale727 karma

I placed an order 8 days ago. When will I get it?

armbrustUSA6 karma

Great question. We just quadrupled our support team and still cannot handle the inbound. We received 1.6mm orders in 3-4 days and everything made to ship people stuff is not meant to handle this order volume. We are drowning here. Stupid problem to have, really, to have masks and be unable to ship them. DM me your order number and I will get you an answer today.

JTCMuehlenkamp3 karma

Would it be possible to outsource some of the shipping demands if there are companies nearby that are willing and able to help?

armbrustUSA1 karma

Not sure how to do that in a sterile environment. The problem is they need to be packed in our lab here.

najing_ftw6 karma

What is your post-pandemic business plan?

armbrustUSA14 karma

We want the cost of our masks to continue to drop. We are staring to make our own filter material in two weeks and that will dramatically drop our costs. The idea is to be the same cost as China once this is all over, and the bet is that Americans will want to support having this strategic resource in our country instead of buying from overseas. Post pandemic we want to be America's supplier of Surgical and N95 masks.

FatCatLarry5 karma

As someone with underlying health conditions. I have not been able to find an N95 mask. I'm local in Austin. How can I buy one from your company?

armbrustUSA7 karma

I don't think you need N95, Surgical or any face mask with a BFE of 97+ would be fine. We do not yet have our N95 masks NIOSH approved so we cannot sell them. This process takes six months, but you can buy our face masks and even pick them up at our Pflugerville location.

afteradd4 karma

I'm curious how long it took to get you mask machine from China. Did you have it airlifted? How did you do diligence without visiting China?

armbrustUSA16 karma

Machines are from China, Japan, Germany and had to be coordinated together (sometimes in China for final builds). Everything was airlifted except the fabric machines which are being put on an express boat we contracted (11 days from Shanghai to Port of LA and then 4 days by rail to Houston).

For diligence we hired a German team of plastics engineers who flew in, audited the factories, did background checks on the owners, and did FaceTime walk throughs with us.

FactPolizei4 karma

Have you received any personal thanks yet from local hospitals or the places your masks have been delivered?

armbrustUSA5 karma

Yes! We have a donation program and some people at South University stopped by today to pick up masks for their nursing students. They gave me a plaque! https://twitter.com/larmbrust/status/1266058692543348737

Tatworth4 karma

You do know that Pflugerville is not part of Austin, correct? Show P'ville some love!

armbrustUSA6 karma

Haha indeed! Man it's just so hard to say!

armbrustUSA8 karma

I try to say "Austin Area" whenever possible but it gets edited out. Actually pretty crazy you are the first to call me out for this.

gfiedler3 karma

  1. What other traditionally Chinese made goods do you think could be manufactured competitively in the US leveraging automation?
  2. Do you have any local/ state/ or federal tax incentives that are working in your favor?

armbrustUSA4 karma

  1. Talking to a lot of folks across the manufacturing spectrum I think it's most things. China just has an amazing world-class manufacturing culture and infrastructure that is frankly better than ours. We need to invest in this across the board if we want to build again in the US.
  2. No we didn't optimize for that but we should... we just hit the ground running.

joshu3 karma

Were there any things you learned in your previous businesses that helped you with this one?

armbrustUSA2 karma

Definitely. In my other business we build automated pipelines for building advertisements for small businesses. The process of breaking complicated things down to simple actions that can be easily processed has been key to automating production.

SmellMyChocha2 karma

I heard that there were big shortages of the material that is used to make the masks. How did you overcome that?

armbrustUSA9 karma

We are building the machines that make the fabric here in Austin, but we do not have them setup yet. In the mean time we literally begged the few American companies that make this material and were able to get some. Like so many they support our vision of bringing Strategic Manufacturing back to the US. Also.... we paid probably 10x normal pricing so maybe that helped? Truly an American story :)

CypripediumCalceolus2 karma

What properties does the mask material need to have? Can you describe the most commonly used fabrics?

armbrustUSA4 karma

Our masks are made up of five parts: the elastic ear loops, nose wire, and three layers of what’s called non-woven fabric, which is basically fabric made from plastic.

Now, the top layer of this fabric, typically blue in color, is called spunbond polypropylene. This is made to protect you from external water droplets, like if someone sneezes in your face :)

Most viruses and microscopic bad guys travel on water droplets that we can’t see, so this outer layer is really important protection.

The bottom layer, typically white, is the same as the top, but meant to protect everyone else from you and sits against your face, so it’s important that it’s soft and comfortable.

Now the middle layer, is this Meltblown material. It’s actually where all the magic happens. A Good meltblown filter can block up to 98% of incoming particles, down to .3 microns which just happens to be the size of the Coronavirus.

mashedhero12 karma

What would you say us the most difficult part on manufacturing these masks?

armbrustUSA5 karma

Packaging and shipping to consumers or end users 1,000,000x the hardest part. Mad respect to Amazon and those that ship so many orders I will never again be upset when my package is 1-2 days delayed I've been a spoiled child and Amazon is magic from the internet that I do not deserve :)

armbrustUSA4 karma

Ha, I'd say every day I discover a new 'most difficult' thing. For instance, we got 1.6mm orders in 4 days... it takes about 20 seconds on Shopify to hit the "purchase shipping label" button and then print it out... so I have someone full time just doing that all day and we are super behind.

SmellMyChocha2 karma

First off, bravo!

I was thinking about doing what you did, but ultimately decided not to when I saw that the FDA could take 3 months or longer to approve a manufacturer. How did you overcome that?

armbrustUSA4 karma

The process is very long, tedious, and requires a lot of expertise. The first thing we did was start early and hire the right experts to tackle it. Accuracy, diligence, and persistence. Sounds like a t-shirt slogan but it’s what is required. Also, make sure you have someone with deep experience in the field guide you - it will save lots of time. This project has been in the works since the first signs of Covid showed up. That has given us time to prepare and start that long arduous process of working with the various certification agencies. The process is also ongoing for us. We’re obtaining additional clearances from ASTM, FDA, and CE.

seanmccann2 karma

What is the cost difference in manufacturing in the United States compared with a lower cost country and importing? Are there any other products, after masks, that you are interested in manufacturing in the United States?

armbrustUSA9 karma

The biggest cost differences between the US and other countries are: cheaper labor, cheaper electricity, and the cost of following our regulations.

The first two we can solve by automating production and vertically integrating so that everything is made here in Austin. That brings us in line with other countries.

We also want to manufacture air filters and surgical gowns which use the same basic materials.

doge1021 karma

Why is everything on your site on "sale"?

armbrustUSA2 karma

Shopify thing they ask you to put in a retail price and we put in what's its selling for at the store in Austin.

softballcoach82-1 karma

Do you think Epstein really killed himself?

armbrustUSA4 karma

GREAT QUESTION. So I think the human brain can only hold so much information... because of that, I have recently filled my brain to the brim with things like FDA regulations, the heating temp of automated sealing machines, and how to get Shopify to ship to North Dakota that there's no room left to think about Epstein :)

softballcoach822 karma

Shopify killed Epstein!? Plot twist.

ps thanks for everything you guys are doing

armbrustUSA1 karma

? Plot twist

peak comedy for this AMA 😅

landonmorales1 karma

A better question is would he be dead had he been wearing a protective face mask...

armbrustUSA0 karma

😷

mustardketchupmayo-2 karma

Which would you rather fight: one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses? With that how do you think it could pertain to your strategy against this nasty corona thing?

armbrustUSA1 karma

Horse-sized duck... one enemy, less heartache from trying to kill 100 tiny kinda cute little horseys.

Generally I tend to pick the biggest hardest problems and fight them head on... I like to know what I'm up against so I think that pertains to how I'm trying to do my part in the fight... why buy PPE from China when I can figure out how to manufacture it here?