Facing a pandemic bearing down on Michigan and the rest of the country, Nicole Sorge had to do something to help her community in its time of dire need.

The company veteran found that opportunity on social media when she saw the local hospital by her Bay City home was seeking homemade COVID-19 masks for health officials.

Sorge dusted off her sewing machine, which was last used to put a patch on her son’s Little League uniform a little over a year ago. Her mind jumped immediately into work mode as she sat at the kitchen table, which has become her makeshift office.

“Making masks has been my hobby on weekends for the last month,” said Sorge, who has put the company’s CE Way lean principles to work for continuous improvement. “I wanted to help my community and at that moment, it was the only way I knew how.”

The first mask took about an hour and a half, and she conquered the latest one in about 10 minutes. So far, she has made well over 100 masks.

“I figured out some ways to reduce time,” said Sorge, a Business Support Consultant for Operations Performance. “My lean background definitely helped me make some improvements to the standard with every batch of masks I made.”

That included adding interfacing inside the mask to act as an added layer of protection in order to sew the side of the mask shut.

Sorge said she was also able to cut down on the time it took to make the masks by organizing her workspace and precutting her fabric.

“I created an assembly line versus just doing one task at a time,” she said. “As I did more, the more I got comfortable with the pattern and the steps in the process as well, which helped speed up time.”

The mask hobby has blossomed – with Sorge helping family and friends by working her mask magic. She even answered the call of her children’s pediatrician office – making a handful of masks for office personnel.

“I made some camouflage ones and told them to tell the children that the virus couldn’t find them.”

Sorge hopes the pandemic will be over soon but will sit at her kitchen table working away on her sewing machine for as long as it takes.

“As long as there is a need for masks,” she said. “I will continue to make them. I feel fortunate to be able to give back to my community.”