A few days ago, U.S. President Trump lambasted General Motors (GM) and Ford to produce the much-needed ventilators fast as the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed China's official numbers. Now both Ford and GM have been busy of late making the necessary medical equipment needed to fight the contagious coronavirus.
Ford, for their part, has partnered up with such companies like 3M, and GE Healthcare to scale up their ventilation production. Meanwhile, GM is working alongside Ventec Life Systems to build ventilators at their factory in Indiana.
Now, GM is now looking to make 1.5 million face masks to protect the front line health workers. The auto giant was able to do this by launching a rapid-response project to produce face masks on a large scale. The company officially began last March 20 with a core team that consisted of more than 30 engineers, designers, buyers, and members of the manufacturing team that the company asked for help.
Working with people in product development, sourcing materials, and production planning, the team was able to source the necessary raw materials needed to mass-produce the face masks. These materials include metal nose pieces, elastic straps, and blown non-woven fabric filler material. In addition, GM also collaborated with JR Automation and Esys Automation in order to design and build the custom machinery needed to assemble the masks.
But where will GM make the new face masks? They chose to reopen the Warren transmission plant which was originally shuttered back in 2019. There, the company cleared about 31,000 square feet of space to accommodate the new face mask production line. The crew even installed new electrical service lines to power up the production and assembly stations.
On March 27, the company officially began making the face masks, and they plan to deliver some 20,000 masks ready for delivery on Wednesday. But before they can achieve that, GM decided to have about 2,000 face masks tested to ensure they meet quality standards. Once their masks have been tested and the production line is at full speed, GM claims they will be able to produce about 50,000 masks every day – or up to 1.5 million a month.
GM, along with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, is seeking to have more than two dozen paid volunteers from Detroit-area plants to staff face mask operations. In addition, GM has implemented a series of safety measures to protect these team members through physical distancing, enhanced on-site cleaning, and pre-entry health screening.
With the U.S. still having the highest number of cases in the world at 215,020 infected, GM's plan to help the front line health workers will be a huge help for the embattled country.