GM this week plans to launch production of 30,000 ventilators — mostly by hand because of limited time to automate the process and the urgent need to deliver the devices to hospitals treating coronavirus victims, Automotive News reports. GM is building the units in its components plant in Kokomo, Indiana.
In related news, the automaker said it has increased production capacity for protective face masks at its former transmission plant in Warren, Michigan, which can now produce up to 1.5 million masks per month.
GM has partnered with Washington-based Ventec Life Systems and is building a portable ventilator unit called the V+Pro that can run on battery power, and thus be used in field hospitals and other non-traditional venues that don’t have supplies of pressurized air and other normal hospital infrastructure. GM last week won a $489.4 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to deliver 30,000 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August, including more than 6,000 by June 1.
The V+Pro is a more limited version of Ventec’s multi-function VOCSN ventilator, but GM says it can scale production of it more quickly. AN reports that GM and Ventec say they have ability to produce up to 200,000 ventilators if needed.
GM first announced its partnership with Ventec to ramp up production on March 20 and said it sourced all the necessary parts from its supply base in three days. The company later found itself in the crosshairs of President Trump, who authorized the Defense Production Act to force it to produce the machines it was already gearing up to build.
Meanwhile, GM said it has added two additional production lines to its plant in Warren: one for face masks and the other for filtering facepiece respirators. GM said it partnered with existing auto suppliers to provide materials and equipment to make the masks, including a mask line custom-built by JR Automation and Esys Automation, two Michigan-based auto suppliers. The automaker also enlisted Goshen, Indiana-based GDC, which makes sound-deadening insulation used in doors, headliners and trunks, to supply it with fabric. That company in turn worked with OXCO in South Carolina to develop three layers of fabric used to make the masks.
GM says it converted its shuttered plant over to mask production in less than seven days.
GM said it has shared its face-mask manufacturing plans with suppliers, the Original Equipment Suppliers Association and the Michigan Manufacturers Association to encourage other companies to join in the effort. GM is also making face masks in China through a joint venture with SAIC-GM-Wuling, and it is studying launching similar efforts in other countries.