Kingston manufacturer pivots from office pods to medical testing units to aid COVID-19 fight

SnapCab pod
SnapCab manufactures its portable office pods at a factory in Kingston. Photo courtesy SnapCab

A Kingston manufacturer that pivoted production from mobile office pods to medical testing units during the pandemic is hoping to have the revamped products ready for use in hospitals soon.

Founded more than 35 years ago, SnapCab manufactures customizable, soundproof office units at a factory on Railway Street in Kingston. The pods, which come in a range of sizes and feature a power bar and a whiteboard, lock in place and are designed to offer privacy for workers in open office environments.

When the pandemic hit, the Pennsylvania-based company immediately began looking at how its mobile meeting rooms could be modified to provide additional testing space or even be used as portable operating rooms at overwhelmed health-care facilities.

“We quickly realized we had the design and manufacturing capabilities to develop medical testing pods for use by health-care workers,” founder and CEO Glenn Bostock said in a statement. “We started connecting with local medical experts for advice and guidance because we had no background in the medical field, but we knew we wanted to help.”

As a result of its ingenuity, SnapCab is being featured in a new national advertising campaign from Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation that helps Canadian companies forge trading relationships with other countries. 

The new ad campaign, called “Business as Unusual,” runs until the end of October. It spotlights EDC clients that successfully shifted their business models to assist Canadians in the fight against COVID-19.

“One thing we’ve learned from this is: start with trying to figure out how you can be useful and do something to help,” Bostock says in the EDC commercial. “The energy around that creates people who want to work with you and partners who want to help you. Look for the upside and build on that.”

SnapCab designed and developed several prototypes for medical testing pods and is now working with U.S.-based engineering and design firm CannonDesign to bring a final product to market. Among the proposals it tested are an acrylic glass structure that looks like a phone booth and contains a pair of holes that allow medical professionals to insert their arms and test patients for the coronavirus.

With the number of Canadians working from home skyrocketing during the pandemic, SnapCab also reconfigured pods designed to host multiple people into individual office spaces aimed at remote workers. 

Installed in church

In addition, the firm unveiled a two-person pod dubbed the Consult, which features a glass partition and an air filtration system to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The portable enclosure recently made headlines when one of the units was installed in Ottawa’s St. John Lutheran Church, where it was coined “the God Pod.”

SnapCab has also developed a parts kit with customizable frames, panels, finishes, furniture and accessories to help offices quickly set up their own portable workspaces.

“We saw the need for people to return to the office, and we realized that our products were so flexible that we could help reinvent the office of the future by simply reworking our current pod designs into something more,” Bostock said. 

“Something we've learned is that people are not going to go back to work the same way that they did before the pandemic.”