A passion for helping others is embedded in Kristina Karschnia’s DNA.
Karschnia, vice president at the company’s Troy Design & Manufacturing facility (TDM), has been instrumental in helping Ford provide face shields – more than 17 million to date – for essential workers throughout the nation who have been putting their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Karschnia not only helped organize production, she has also been delivering boxes of masks personally to people in need and assembling masks herself in her “extra time.”
“It has been a whirlwind,” said Karschnia, who has been working in Quality and Manufacturing at Ford for 25 years.
After Ford closed its North America manufacturing facilities on March 18, the company sprang into action to come up with ways to use its production facilities to help the American people.
“The D-Ford team had the idea for the face shields, and TDM has a huge engineering wheelhouse,” explained Karschnia. “That’s where it started.”
Within days of sending employees home who had been working at TDM on prototype parts for the upcoming Ford Bronco, the facility was back in action with volunteers – both union and salaried – working together to assemble face shields.
“We brought our suppliers online and Howard Lew, one of the main engineers we interface with at TDM, helped us set up the stations,” said Karschnia.
“We started it like an assembly line the Henry Ford way with each person doing a part of the process. Then we refined it in light of social distancing to where each operator works six feet apart and assembles the whole shield from start to finish.”
On the first day of production, the team produced 4,000 face shields that were delivered immediately to four Michigan hospitals.
“That same day we got an email from one of the hospitals with a photo of their people wearing the face shields that we had just made,” said Karschnia. “It gave me goose bumps. I could barely read the note. I just feel so happy that I can play a part in helping somebody who’s putting their life on the line for all of us.”
As production of the shields continued, Karschnia started dropping boxes off herself to first responders, nurses and others in the local area who needed them.
“I just love helping people,” she said.
Still working seven days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day, and more than 10 million face shields later … Karschnia said she doesn’t feel right if she hasn’t assembled at least one face shield herself at TDM.
“I’m running on pure adrenaline,” she said. “I come in here and the collaboration between the union and salaried folks is so amazing. It’s exciting to be part of the team and make the shields.”
Karschnia said her colleagues at TDM, including Adrian Price, title, and Todd Jaranowski, title, inspire her to do her best every day.
“We wrote on the board at TDM, It’s not how many shields we make, it’s how many people’s lives we touched,” she said.
Karschnia is no stranger to giving. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, her first instinct was to donate blood.
“Some members of my family told me I was not smart to do that because they said I was going to get the virus, but I had to do something,” she said. “I have a rare blood type and donating blood was the only thing I could think of to do to help at that point.”
Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, Karschnia mentors young adults at Vista Maria in Dearborn and serves as the president of the Board of Directors for Mend on the Move, a Detroit non-profit organization that empowers and employs women survivors of abuse through jewelry making using auto parts and salvaged car seat leather. She is also an active member of Ford’s Women in Manufacturing.