Ford is pivoting its production line to make ventilators, respirators and protective equipment © AFP/Getty Images
Ford is pivoting its production line to make ventilators, respirators and protective equipment © AFP/Getty Images

Coronavirus: industries switch to medical supplies

24 March 2020

Carmakers including Ford, General Motors and Tesla are working to manufacture medical equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Ford is working with medical equipment firms 3M and GE Healthcare to expand production of ventilators and respirators required by US hospitals as virus cases rise. 

It also plans to assemble 100,000 face masks per week and to use its in-house 3D-printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Jim Hackett, Ford CEO, said: “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.

“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs. We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist healthcare workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”

Kieran Murphy, CEO of GE Healthcare, added: “We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilised to address the growing challenge we collectively face from Covid-19.

“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.”

President Donald Trump announced General Motors and Tesla would be given the “go-ahead” to produce ventilators as part of efforts to boost supplies

Meanwhile, Inditex – parent company of Zara – has offered its services producing PPE as part of the global fight against the spread of coronavirus. 

According to Reuters, the firm said it was studying converting part of its textile manufacturing capacity in Spain to produce hospital gowns.

It also said it would make its logistics and supplier network available to Spain to meet the country’s “emergency needs of both medical and textile materials” such as protective masks, gloves, goggles and caps.

The firm has donated 10,000 masks and another 300,000 are due to be sent by the end of the week, Inditex said. 

Seperately, petrochemicals manufacturer INEOS is set to build hand sanitiser factories in Middlesborough and Germany in just 10 days in order to address a “critical shortage” in Europe.

The firm – which already produces two of the key raw materials needed for sanitisers: isopropyl alcohol and ethanol – is aiming to produce 1m bottles of sanitiser a month from the Middlesborough factory for consumers and hospitals. 

Three of the UK’s largest building companies, Travis Perkins, Grafton and Saint-Gobain, have offered their services to help deliver materials and keep supply chains running.

Writing to Alok Sharma, the UK’s business secretary, the firms said they were capable of mobilising a huge fleet of vehicles and drivers from around the country to facilitate the repair of hospitals, prisons and other public buildings and offered to keep tenanted social housing properties supplied with necessary materials.

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