Recognizing the Manufacturing Heroes of the COVID-19 Crisis


The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis on a scale few have experienced, but amid the losses are signs of hope.

At EASE, we are inspired by manufacturers taking up the challenge to address critical shortages of medical supplies such as ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer. Today’s post is a salute to some of these manufacturing heroes helping protect those on the front lines.

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Ventilators: A Critical Need for Patients

General Motors (GM) has made headlines recently for partnering with medical device company Ventec to manufacture 30,000 ventilators by August.

“GM is in the position to help build more ventilators because of the remarkable performance of GM and Ventec’s global supply base,” said Mary Barra, CEO of GM in a press statement. “Our joint teams have moved mountains to find real solutions to save lives and fight the pandemic.”

Many other companies are also jumping in to build ventilators:

  • Ford is partnering with GE to manufacture 50,000 ventilators by July, and the company also plans to make 100,000 face shields weekly.
  • VentilatorChallengeUK is a group of aerospace companies formed to produce 10,000 ventilators. The group includes Airbus, Arrow Electronics, BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, Meggitt, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Smiths Group and Thales.
  • Ventilator manufacturer Bio-Med has employees working seven days a week with overtime during the week to speed up device production.
  • Virgin Orbit, an aerospace manufacturer focused on satellite launch services, has designed a simple, mass-producible ventilator that could help ease shortages.
  • Automotive supplier Maruti Suzuki is partnering with AgVA Healthcare to scale up production of 10,000 ventilators per month, also manufacturing masks and other PPE.
  • Auto manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra is testing prototypes of an affordable ventilator it developed in-house, as well as using a Ford design to manufacture face shields.
  • Dyson Ltd, well known for their innovative vacuum cleaners, hand dryers and more, designed a new ventilator in 10 days and are manufacturing 15,000 for the fight against COVID-19.

Personal Protective Equipment: Protecting the Front Line

3M is increasing production of N95 respirator masks, aiming for 50 million per month by June 2020. “We continue to act with urgency to address this crisis from every angle and do all we can to protect our heroic nurses, doctors and first responders,” Mike Roman, 3M chairman and CEO, said in a recent press statement.

Additional companies are also pivoting manufacturing resources to fill this crucial gap:

  • Fiat Chrysler is set to manufacture one million face masks for US and Canadian hospitals.
  • Honeywell is expanding capacity to produce more than 20 million N95 masks monthly.
  • GM has started making surgical masks, aiming for up to 100,000 per day once manufacturing gets going.
  • Apple has designed an adjustable face shield and plans to distribute more than a million weekly.
  • Hanes is working to produce up to 1.5 million cotton face masks weekly, sharing designs with companies like Fruit of the Loop and others to produce a combined 6 million masks weekly
  • Under Armour will make 500,000 face masks and thousands of gowns and face shields for Maryland hospitals.
  • New Balance is ramping up production of 100,000 masks weekly for Massachusetts hospitals.
  • Gap is manufacturing face masks and connecting vendors with hospitals to deliver millions more supplies.
  • Nike has started delivering face shields made from sneaker materials to Oregon hospitals.
  • Lear Corporation has expanded manufacturing capacity at its AccuMED plant to increase production of protective masks.
  • Indianapolis-based automotive parts manufacturer Fleece Performance Engineering is making up to 200 face shields hourly for hospitals nationwide, aiming to make 10,000 per shift.
  • 3D printer manufacturer JuggerBot is 3D printing visors and assembling more than 500 face shields for donation to hospitals.
  • Extruded rubber products manufacturer Nishiwaka Cooper is using its multi-function laser cutters to manufacture gowns being distributed to first responders.
  • Hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer is now making medical visors, distributing 100,000 to start with a goal of producing 4,000 a day.
  • Adaptive Energy LLC, which produces fuel cells for military-grade drones, is making face shields and plastic intubation boxes to protect healthcare workers.
  • Auto supplier Magna has developed a container that uses ozone to kill bacteria, which the company hopes to test for disinfecting PPE.
  • North Carolina-based Bossong Hosiery has created a washable mask embedded with antimicrobial copper threads for distribution to local hospitals.

From Beer and Alcohol to Hand Sanitizer

Major distilleries facing a reduction in sales are using their manufacturing resources to produce hand sanitizer using alcohol that would otherwise be used in bottles of liquor. In many cases, these companies are distributing the hand sanitizer for free.

“This is a way that we can bring a service to the public on a much-needed commodity,” said Robert Cassell to CNBC, owner of Philadelphia’s New Liberty Distillery and president of the Pennsylvania Distillers Guild.

Dozens of distilleries and breweries are now making hand sanitizer, including some of the biggest names in the industry like:

  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Bacardi
  • Diageo
  • Brown-Forman, maker of Jack Daniels

Other manufacturers getting involved include Massachusetts-based Alternative Therapies Group and INSA. The cannabis dispensaries are using the downtime from shutdown of recreational cannabis sales to instead make hand sanitizer, with the Commonwealth Dispensary Association in that state estimating that members could manufacture about 5,000 gallons weekly.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the manufacturers keeping stores stocked and supply chains moving. From food to paper products, truck parts, disinfectants and more, these manufacturers deserve recognition for pressing forward under difficult circumstances so the public can access essential supplies.

Like so many other stories of generosity during the pandemic, it’s amazing to see what can happen when people unite against a common threat. It’s equally amazing to see what companies are doing to keep hard-working employees on the job so they can feed their families. The manufacturing community is a key player in these challenges, as are the employees who risk their health every day at work. And that, we believe, is the very definition of heroism.

Get up-to-date best practices from OSHA and the CDC with our free COVID-19 Safety Resources for Manufacturers

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