Businesses keen lend a clean hand in coronavirus crisis

From manufacturing medical equipment to making homemade hand sanitiser, businesses are finding innovative ways to stay afloat and help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Cameron Mackenzie's new hand sanitiser won't be sold across the nation, but it will lift spirits – and hygiene – in his patch of the world.

Mr Mackenzie, distiller and co-founder of the Four Pillars Gin Company in Healesville, mixed leftover alcohol with aloe vera to help alleviate a shortage of hand sanitiser.

“People have been trying to buy it just walking through the front door,” he said. “But any surplus I will offer for the local businesses to use. Those guys can’t buy it either, and I’ll save some for the church across the road.”

The government is asking companies across the country to make medical supplies such as surgical gowns, goggles, and hand sanitiser. Face masks are also in high demand.

Cameron Mackenzie, head distiller at Four Pillars Gin. Four Pillars are using a by-product of the gin-making process to make hand sanitiser for its customers to use.Credit:Justin McManus

The Australian Industry Group’s Tim Piper said while few businesses were changing their core product, many would pivot to help in the battle against COVID-19.

MadeComfy, which manages Airbnb rentals on behalf of property owners, has revised its strategy in the face of travel and quarantine restrictions, businesses directing staff to work from home.

The Sydney business is now renting out its 600-plus properties as work-from-home and quarantine accommodation to technology, professional services and start-ups.

"We … believe that the expected pressure on frontline health care workers will require flexible and self-contained accommodation in order to reduce the risks of infection when these workers return home to their families after their shifts," a company spokesman said.

Russell Lacy's Micro Plastics business, which manufactures products for pools, spas and the horse racing industry, was already in survival mode.

He said manufacturing businesses like his could be useful in the crisis as travel restrictions and border closures force larger companies review their decisions to use overseas manufacturers.

Mr Lacy said he would be willing to manufacture the medical supplies that are desperately needed at home and abroad.

Melburnian Matt Allen, an investor in start-ups, said new technology companies such as 3D printing specialists could thrive during the pandemic.

3D printers have already been used to address medical supply shortages for items such as respirators.

“Digital native businesses, mostly startups, are well equipped to deal with remote work, having quite often been spread around the country and the world,” he said.

“Digital channels and video calls have replaced coffees and in-office meetings.”

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