Paul Crossen, managing director of 40-year-old engineering firm Crossen Engineering, says the diversification of his product portfolio during the Covid-19 pandemic has been something of a learning curve for him and his team.
"It's a different animal, creating your own products and marketing them," he says.
"Developing our own products has always been an aspiration but the pandemic has probably pushed us into it quicker."
Paul and his team, which includes his brother David and his cousin Peter, as well as other family members, have pioneered a face shield that can be clipped onto caps.
The company, which is based on Ballygowan Road in Belfast, has called it the Peak Shield and has set about marketing the product to companies where caps make up part of the uniform.
It's all part of the new protection many workforces will have to include in their uniform as society gets back to working amid the 'new normal' of coronavirus.
"It's less conspicuous and can come with the company's own branding, and we find that some of the younger workers prefer wearing it that way. It's something different to the face shields we are making," says Paul.
Peak Shield has evolved from Crossen's participation in the Hero Shield production line, a charity set up to create face shields for the NHS and done in partnership with other local manufacturers at the beginning of the outbreak.
The Hero Shield is a visor designed to protect healthcare workers from liquid splashes and bodily fluids when treating Covid-19 infectious patients.
It was created by the collective of companies with the aim of helping key workers during this time of crisis.
"Initially we were making the headband part of the shield and Shnuggle, which created the collaboration, stepped back, and handed the project over to ourselves and Denroy.
"Today we make 70,000 parts per week for the NHS but that customer base has expanded.
"We're finding now that workers in other industries require face shields.
"We've supplied shields to all 23 Ikea stores in the UK and Ireland and we are getting enquiries from beauty salons who are preparing to get back to work. All of our own staff wear them, too."
Among those participating in the collaboration alongside Crossen are Ad-Vance Engineering, Brett Martin, Cutting Industries, Minprint, Leckey and A&L Goodbody, which are lending different areas of expertise including manufacturing, logistics and legal advice.
Just last week the team behind Hero Shields benefited from a €300,000 (£268,000) cross-border fund. The fund, known as the Co-Innovate scheme, is led by InterTradeIreland and supported by the European Union's Interreg VA Programme.
Serving the medical sector, including companies like TG Eakin and Armstrong Medical, is a relatively new venture for Crossen but today it forms the bulk of its work.
Set up in 1978, the firm began life as a manufacturer of metal automotive parts and then moved on to supplying the aerospace industry.
"We've diversified a lot. Ten years ago, and up to five years ago, we were supplying parts for jet engine internals for an American company and we pushed that quite hard, but aerospace had long lead-in times, a lot of certification and paperwork and really more work than it was worth.
"We now work towards medical care."
Today other clients include sportswear retailer O'Neills, for which Crossen creates hurling helmets, as well as Bloc Blinds, Leckey Design and Keystone Group. It provides services including design, prototyping, manufacturing and tooling.
Paul, a Comber native, became involved in the family business when he was around 11 "driving forklift trucks and making things".
"I loved it. What was there not to love about it?" he recalls.
A engineering qualification at Bangor College followed, and after that Paul entered Crossen Engineering full-time. The company has always been a family affair. While it started out with a focus on metal parts, the business has since evolved.
"We're probably 25% metal now and 75% plastics," Paul says.
Today the company employs 30 staff, the majority of whom were furloughed at the beginning of lockdown as the family members only carried on with urgent work.
But joining the Hero Shield collaboration meant the resumption of activity for not just the entire workforce, but another 10 temporary staff.
"We took another unit and spaced out all the manual jobs into that unit, which allows everyone to work at a safe distance.
"We also carry out temperature checks, too, and provide sanitiser, while all staff wear Hero Shields, so it is working out well for us despite the climate we are working in."
Paul admits that at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak the future looked bleak for the company.
There was a nervousness among the team about how it would impact business.
"The virus hit at the start of our financial year and we thought about what we needed to do, what we had to focus on, and the forecast was scary and pretty daunting," he continues. "But we've since had a lot of new outlets, a lot of enquiries from new customers and that's because we can turn and diversify what we do.
"We are also looking at hand sanitiser and making the mould for disinfectant tiles and other PPE products."
Paul has been managing director at Crossen Engineering for almost six years and has created a new management team.
He says activity throughout the pandemic has been "manic", pushing the company to "change on such a fluid basis".
"It's been a learning curve doing that because it's a whole different animal.
"Now we have to market our products whereas before we dealt with customers.
"We will hopefully come out of this with a new product line, our own products and a new website from the opportunities that this virus has presented," he says.