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Ford US starts production of medical supplies

Ford Motor Company joins with healthcare bodies to manufacture medical equipment

27 Mar 2020

FORD Motor Company has partnered with several key healthcare bodies in the United States to manufacture much-needed respirators, ventilators and plastic face shields as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral out of control.


“This is such a critical time for America and the world,” said Ford executive chairman Bill Ford.


“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.”


Pairing with 3M, Ford staff have this week turned to developing a new kind of powered air-purifying respirator, leveraging components from the parts bins of both companies.


Examples of this resourcefulness and emphasising the urgency of the situation include using the ventilation fans usually found in the seats of the F150 pick-up and combining them with the 3M HEPA air filters.


The new respirator is set to be manufactured at one of Ford’s Michigan production plants, a move that would reportedly boost 3M’s own production by up to 10 times.


In an added boost for 3M, production facilities have already leveraged and adapted to produce existing respirator models, further bolstering the supply to first responders.


3M chief executive Mike Roman said all available opportunities to further expand production were being explored.


“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,” he said.


Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett added that executives had empowered teams of engineers and designers “to be scrappy and creative” in a bid to increase production of not only the respirators, but all possible forms of medical supplies and equipment.


On the subject of other equipment types, the American auto giant has also paired with GE Healthcare to produce a simplified version of the latter’s existing ventilator design for those with respiratory problems or difficulty breathing as a result of COVID-19.


While production has not yet started, Ford said these simplified ventilators could be manufactured at an in-house site as well as existing GE facilities.


GE Healthcare president and CEO Kieran Murphy said it was encouraging to see how fast companies from varying industries were uniting in the fight against the coronavirus.


“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,” he said.


Ford has also set about designing and producing tens of thousands of face-shields designed to block the eyes and faces of first responders and medical workers.


The company estimates that some 75,000 examples of the shields will be ready to go into circulation by the start of next week, with that number closer to 100,000 per week once production is in full swing.


The rapid production rate lies in the reasonably simple manufacturing process, with Ford leveraging its in-house 3D printing capabilities at its Redford Advanced Manufacturing Center to suit the task.


“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs,” Mr Hackett said.


Mr Ford added: “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.”


Further afield, the Blue Oval brand is understood to be in talks with the British government to produce additional ventilators independently of GE Healthcare.


In China, local subsidiary partner Jiangling Motors has reportedly donated 10 purpose-built Transit ambulance vans to hospitals throughout Wuhan – the epicentre of the initial outbreak.


Other supplies including facemasks and recycled respirators are also being prepared and distributed.


Closer to home, Ford Australia and New Zealand president and CEO Kay Hart told GoAuto this week that talks were already underway with the federal government as to how it can best leverage its own resources and facilities while also looking to its American headquarters and UK counterparts for guidance given their more in-depth experience.


“We have been in contact with the government here and we’re actively working on how we could support them in all of their efforts in potentially a range of different ways,” she said.

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