The global pandemic is perhaps the greatest single recent event that is changing modern history as we know it. Cities and countries are on lockdown, people are staying home, and factories for non-essential goods are sitting idle like automobile factories all over the world.
But that doesn't mean they couldn't be put to good use to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ford Motor Company has just officially announced that they are teaming up with different firms to scale up the production of critically-needed equipment for the fight against the new coronavirus. This follows the announcement made by General Motors and Fiat Chrysler that they'll be making medical equipment for the time being.
One partner that Ford will have is 3M, and this time it's not for automobile window films. Ford and 3M will be working together to make PAPR units or Powered Air-Purifying Respirators. UAW workers at the Ford facility could be tasked to build the PAPR units, and interestingly enough they'll be diving into their existing parts bin to make assembly quicker.
Ford and 3M are evaluating the existing parts stocks like the electric fans that Ford uses in the F-150's cooled seats, 3M HEPA air filters, and portable tool battery packs that can be used up to 8 hours of continuous use.
"Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment," said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president, and CEO.
The company will also work with General Electric (GE) Healthcare to scale up production of what the company calls a "simplified" version of an existing ventilator design. The equipment is essential to aiding patients having extreme difficulty breathing due to the coronavirus. The production will be a collaboration between a Ford manufacturing site and a GE factory.
"We are proud to bring our clinical and technical expertise to this collaboration with Ford, working together to serve unprecedented demand for this life-saving technology and urgently support customers as they meet patient needs," said Kieran Murphy, GE Healthcare president, and CEO.
Ford is also using the equipment at its disposal to produce all kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE) required by front liners. The company's 3D printing equipment is being used to make components and parts necessary for PPE. They are also working to produce N95 masks and surgical masks for hospitals.
The international operations of the company are also initiating efforts to work with various foreign governments for the equipment they need like the UK and China.
This isn't the first time that Ford has shifted its production to fight a crisis.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Ford shifted its entire production to build a variety of war materiels such as military gliders and B-24 bombers.