Covid 19 impact: Ford, 3M, GE Healthcare, UAW join hands to manufacture medical equipment and supplies

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 24 Mar 2020


The Covid 19 impact may be a difficult challenge globally, but countries, organisations, and individuals are giving it a tough fight. The scenario has seen unlikely forces joining hands to solve challenges, and among the recent ones is American multinational’s Ford Motor Co, 3M, GE Healthcare and United Auto Workers (UAW) coming together.

As part of the announcement, the automaker says it will lend its engineering and manufacturing expertise to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders and patients fighting.

This comes in addition to the announcement on March 19 by the United Auto Workers (UAW), General Motors, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler (FCA) formed a COVID-19/Coronavirus Task Force to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies.

The United States which has witnessed a surge in the number of Covid 19 cases, for which President Donald Trump had taken to Twitter, a popular social media platform and said that Ford, GM, and Tesla had been given the green signal to manufacture ventilators.

In addition, Ford also plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.

Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor said: “This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation. By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis. At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators
Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet the surge demand for first responders and health care workers. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.

To ensure swift response, the Ford and 3M teams have been resourcefully locating off-the-shelf parts like fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants such as droplets that carry virus particles and portable tool battery packs to power these respirators for up to eight hours.

The OEM says it is also looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.

Jim Hackett, president and CEO, Ford Motor 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 health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”

Mike Roman, chairman of the board and CEO, 3M said: “We’re exploring all available opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get healthcare supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes partnering with other great companies like Ford. It’s crucial that we mobilise all resources to protect lives and defeat this disease, and I’m incredibly grateful to Ford and their employees for this partnership.”

Ventilators, respirators and face shields
In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19. These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location. 

Kieran Murphy, president and CEO, GE Healthcare said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Ford’s U.S. design team also is quickly creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The face shields fully block the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids and when paired with N95 respirators can be a more effective way to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than N95 respirators alone.

The first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Michigan.

Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan, and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment. It is also evaluating a separate effort not involving GE Healthcare with the U.K. government to produce additional venitlators.

In China, Ford of China joint venture partner Jiangling Motors also has donated 10 specially equipped Transit ambulance vans to hospitals in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help combat coronavirus.

The OEM says it has also kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.

Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials.