The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a shutdown of about 25 percent of the U.S. economy. With that comes rising unemployment levels, a substantial drop in a real gross domestic product, and a looming recession. However, among the gloom and uncertainty, many manufacturers have found a way to keep themselves in business while also helping their community.
In recent weeks, several companies have repurposed their production to help the healthcare industry and general public fight the virus by producing ventilators, face masks, hand sanitizer, and other essential items that are low in stock.
Similar to during wartimes in the 20th century when companies like GM, Ford, and Chrysler joined the mobilization effort to produce military equipment, these companies are using their resources to produce medical equipment.
GlobalData estimates that there are 880,000 ventilators in demand globally to cope with the Coronavirus. While hard-hit states like New York and Louisiana are desperately calling for more ventilators, several car companies have stepped up to produce a prototype as quickly as possible.
Tesla, Ford, General Electric and General Motors have all begun efforts to mass-produce ventilators before the virus reaches its peak in the U.S.
Ford and General Electric Healthcare teamed up last week with a plan to produce 50,000 ventilators in Detroit in the next 100 days and up to 30,000 per month after that time frame. General Electric is licensing the ventilator design from Airon Corp., a small Florida manufacturer.
“The Ford and GE Healthcare teams, working creatively and tirelessly, have found a way to produce this vitally needed ventilator quickly and in meaningful numbers,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO. “By producing this ventilator in Michigan, in strong partnership with the UAW, we can help healthcare workers save lives, and that’s our No. 1 priority.”
Michigan-based automaker General Motors is also working on ventilators and recently sent a team to Seattle to learn how Ventec builds its ventilators and how they can find suppliers for the components. Right now, they are training a team of over 1,000 employees at their Kokomo, IN factory to produce Ventec Life Systems and keep CDC health procedures in place. One of which is Kokomo local Debbie Hollis.
“I have family all across the country, so (COVID-19) has impacted everybody that I know and love,” Hollis said. “I’m grateful that I get a chance to do my part and be a part of something…we are modern-day Rosie the Riveters.”
Tesla is taking a slightly different approach by trying to develop their own ventilator design out of available car parts and some necessary medical equipment. The company posted a Youtube video on Sunday featuring a group of engineers explaining the process.
“We’re trying to make some ventilators out of some car parts, so that we can help out the medical industry without taking away from their supply,” Lars Moravy, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, says in the video.
The company has yet to give a timeline of their ventilator production, but plans to start operations at their Buffalo, NY factory are underway.
Face masks are becoming increasingly more important as the CDC just issued a recommendation for all citizens to wear cloth face coverings in public spaces.
Many apparel companies with U.S.-based supply chains have teamed up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to produce up to 10 million face masks per week in Central America and the United States. The effort consists of 10 companies that formed a supply chain basically overnight. The National Council of Textile Organizations put out a press release in March, in which it names the companies involved.
The brands partaking in the coalition are Hanesbrands, Fruit of the Loom, American Giant, Los Angeles Apparel, AST Sportswear, Sanmar, America Knits, Beverly Knits and Riegel Linen.
“Hanesbrands and Fruit of the Loom, often competitors in the marketplace, are banding together for the greater good of a nation facing one of its most monumental challenges,” stated the official press release.
Hand Sanitizer and Other Essentials
The rush to stockpile hand sanitizer has caused a shortage in the U.S., but many distilleries all over the nation have switched production to make bulk hand sanitizer. Hundreds of distilleries have shifted gears to help the medical industry, retirement homes and overall population in fighting the virus–many of which are doing it completely for free or for a discounted price to help the healthcare industry and high-risk individuals.
Bacardi Bottling Corp., the producer of Bacardi Rum, recently repurposed production to hand sanitizer at their Jacksonville, FL facility. They are currently working on producing 24,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to distribute to hospitals and first responders throughout Florida.
“As a family-owned company, Bacardi puts people first and this time will be no different. We are part of the community and are here to support those in the front lines helping to keep us safe,” said Darrin Mueller, director of operations for Bacardi.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented and dreadful time in world history–but the kindness and compassion of the companies and workers that are helping the American people does not go unnoticed.
Made in America thanks everyone from the medical professionals on the front lines to grocery store clerks for risking their health to help others.