In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical piece of equipment that many hospitals (as well as the many newly-established emergency care facilities) need worldwide is the medical ventilator. And there is not enough to meet the global requirement, at least from existing medical suppliers.
And so governments are turning to the industrial capabilities of the auto industry for help, and the case is going to be the same for Japan. The nation has not been spared from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic: confirmed cases have soared to over 4,700 as of April 8.
On Tuesday, April 7th, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo declared a state of emergency that affects the four prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama in Kanto, the prefectures of Osaka and Hyogo in Kansai, and the prefecture of Fukuoka in Kyushu.
As confirmed cases continue to rise, the Japanese government is scrambling to secure more medical ventilators to augment its current 8,000 unit inventory. The Prime Minister said that they would like to source up to 15,000 more from domestic and foreign suppliers.
And so Abe turned to the Japanese auto industry, starting with Toyota. The Japanese PM confirmed that Toyota will work to secure around 20,000 ventilators.
"Toyota and other firms have agreed to cooperate in regard to the manufacturing," said Abe on the TV Tokyo broadcast.
An official statement from Toyota followed:
"In response to a request from the Japanese government made to Japanese automakers through the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) calling for an increase in production of medical equipment including ventilators, Toyota is working with medical equipment manufacturers to determine if its know-how of the Toyota Production System (TPS) can be utilized to help improve productivity. To do so, the company is creating a TPS support team, centering around Toyota Motor Corporation, and will immediately dispatch them to companies struggling to rapidly increase production of medical equipment. Currently, the company is coordinating with relevant parties including manufacturers on specific measures."
Health care systems around the world have been adversely impacted by the shortage of medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Toyota will produce injection mold and 3D-printed medical face shields in its Teiho Plant in Japan. According to the company, it is preparing to produce injection mold medical face shields with an anticipated starting production volume of 500 to 600 per week. The company is also starting to evaluate the possibility of other group companies also joining in on the production.
Last week, Toyota also announced its US-based factories would produce 3D printed face shields and face masks to be donated to hospitals around the country.