The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is having direct and indirect impact on motor vehicle design and manufacturing with most North American automotive production suspended or reduced. With your help, we can assess the impact the virus may have had and share the results back to help everyone navigate these uncertain times.
Covering news during a global pandemic means what you wrote about yesterday or one hour ago likely has had some change or development since then. Because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, as I left the office Thursday evening, I packed with plans to work remotely until further notice. Our company has always had that infrastructure in place for as long as I have worked at GIE Media, so this wasn’t a hard shift. Sure, home with kids and a spouse – who has been working remote for 10 years – may get to be “boring” as I’ve heard, but as the State of Ohio is under an Stay Home Order until April, 6, 2020, we’ll get through this and our reporting won’t stop. Our team can connect from anywhere. By staying home, we are allowing those whose help is needed now to continue – medical professionals, first responders, and manufacturing of all industries.
And while auto manufacturers may not be manufacturing respirators today, they are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to automation. That’s the rational response from Ventec Life Systems’ CEO, Chris Kiple to Axios’ reporter Joann Muller, saying “Ventilator manufacturers produce thousands of ventilators; auto manufactures produce millions of automobiles — they understand how to scale manufacturing and could be a helpful resource to expedite ventilator production.”
That’s just one item since I left work last week. As we work through the increase of companies offering their expertise, we’ll keep you updated. Here’s a short list to start. Major medical OEMs such as Royal Philips provide regular updates on their work to ramp up production and how they are responding to COVID-19.
I heard from Mid-South Machine that they "have limited experience working with a couple companies in the medical device field… [and they] want to see if there's any way we can help supply these companies with any precision machining needs.
Tooling Tech Group asked our help to get the message out that they have capacity and will make priority any projects that can help alleviate the Covid-19 crisis, including any die, molds, tryout, stampings, and automated assembly.
Web Industries Inc., a precision converter and contract manufacturing organization (CMO), has allocated production capacity at its Holliston, Mass., plant to support developers of COVID-19 lateral flow immunoassay (LFI) diagnostic tests. LFI tests are one type of diagnostic device under research and development as public health leaders seek solutions to efficiently test large numbers of people for COVID-19.
To support President Trump’s invoking of the Defense Production Act to increase COVID-19 related medical equipment production, effective Thursday, March 19, 2020 ASG Jergens Inc. will be implementing an order priority initiative for all medical device manufacturers.
BCN3D launchedcampaign against Covid-19: “We are here to help” - Get in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org
“This last days, with a global pandemic taking lives and forcing us all to take drastic measures to prevent the Covid-19 virus from disseminating further, there have been many rays of light in the form of innovators worldwide, who are putting their ideas and energy into the task of developing new ways to help those in need.
“These people are an inspiration to us all, and from BCN3D we want to enable them to bring their projects to life, so that help can reach further everyday. For that reason, we have launched from today the campaign to offer all our 3D printing technology to hospitals, medical, and scientific centers that need this technology for the manufacture of respiratory equipment parts that care for patients affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We would like to offer our own printfarm, composed by a total of 63 machines (FFF technology 3Dprinters: Sigma, Sigmax and BCN3D Epsilon), to be used for those projects that can contribute the most to the public benefit in these hard times.
I also received a note about a respirator challenge: Ennomotive has joined other international initiatives for the development of easy-to-build ventilators and makes its global community of 20,000 engineers available to face the challenge.
Based on its experience, ennomotive has chosen to focus on solutions that can adapt or reuse widely used standard industrial components or that use other easy-to-access and universal everyday-life elements.
This online challenge is open worldwide to any engineering professional, company, tech center, maker or scholar from different industries and technical backgrounds that want to propose a solution for this challenge. The final goal is to make a key contribution to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The solutions resulting from this challenge will be open to the public and ennomotive will fund the development of the best prototypes in the next round. Given the urgency, the first deadline for submissions is the March 25, 2020.
Cleveland, Ohio – As COVID-19 spreads in the United States, automakers have already halted production at most U.S. plants and offered to aid governments in supplying emergency medical equipment. The following are updates from the past several days.
General Motors partners with Ventec Life Systems for ventilator production
Ford, General Motors (GM), and Tesla have all offered to convert shuttered auto plants to produce ventilators and other medical equipment that health experts expect to be in short supply as the coronavirus spreads, but most of those offers had been limited to general willingness to help.
The partnership with Ventec, however, shows how automakers can help in the short term without retooling plants. Ventec will tap into GM’s vast purchasing, logistics, and manufacturing know-how to boost production of its existing lines of ventilators. GM won’t be producing the devices directly, but officials will aid the medical device company in its efforts to rush more machines to market.
“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
Ventec Life Systems CEO Chris Kiple put it simply, “This partnership will help save lives.”
The partnership with GM came from stopthespread.org, a non-profit set up by large businesses in health care and finance less than a week ago to help coordinate Corporate America’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Officials with other automakers said they’re also looking for opportunities to aid the disease-fighting efforts. With most auto plants closed to normal production, there is plenty of manufacturing space and available employees to make parts or assemble systems – if automakers and suppliers can find partners with medical expertise.
Tesla to shut down California production
Electric vehicle (EV) automaker Tesla had so far resisted calls to stop production, despite being in one of the California counties under a shelter-in-place order last week. That shelter-in-place order spread to the rest of California on Friday, and local officials had been pressuring the company to cease production to keep employees apart, limiting the potential spread of the virus.
However, Tesla officials said keeping the plant open had become a hardship on its employees and suppliers, given the large number of support businesses that were shutting down.
“We have decided to temporarily suspend production at our factory in Fremont, from end of day March 23, which will allow an orderly shutdown,” Tesla officials said, offering no expected restart date. “Our factory in New York will temporarily suspend production as well, except for those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure, and critical supply chains. Operations of our others facilities will continue, including Nevada and our service and Supercharging network.”
On Twitter Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company is ready to produce ventilators, but he has also questioned the need to do so.
Toyota extends its shutdown
While Toyota had joined Detroit’s automakers in announcing plans to pause production starting this week, it had initially pledged to be back to normal operations by Wednesday. Late last week, Toyota officials extended that down period until April 6, making it a two-week shutdown instead of a two-day one.
Volkswagen shutting down Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant
VW shut down its U.S. plant on Saturday and plans to keep it closed until March 29, using that week to clean and establish new hygiene protocols at the plant.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 20 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the world’s largest aerospace technical society with nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries and 100 corporate members, is calling upon U.S. policymakers to protect the mission-critical aerospace and defense workforce and supply chain.
In a press release, AIAA officials said, “We call on federal government officials and lawmakers to be mindful of and support the aerospace and defense industry during this challenging time.
“The coronavirus pandemic is stalling the global economy, impairing businesses, and changing how we go about our daily lives. Its impact is multiplying, and the effects reach far beyond this year's balance sheets.
“Here in the United States, the aerospace and defense industry supports more than 2.5 million jobs and 17,000 suppliers from large manufacturers to small businesses that form the backbone of the supply chain. It represents more than $928 billion in economic output for the United States and more than $237 billion in wages. The industry has improved our quality of life by transforming transportation, medicine, defense, and security, among other things.
“In times such as these, the aerospace and defense sector is essential to protect our national security and provide much needed logistics capability to bring critical supplies to areas of need. Its highly skilled workforce has made significant advances in areas such as autonomy, cybersecurity, air mobility, and space exploration. The aerospace and defense workforce is an essential driver of innovation for the U.S. economy, our national security, and expanding the utilization of space for future generations. We need the industry to survive the crisis and build our future.
“The industry is experiencing an economic downturn that's worse than 9/11. Airlines are laying off thousands of workers and cutting flights. Maintenance, repair, and overhaul workers are also feeling the impacts. We're in the initial stages of the COVID-19 crisis and can expect to see more jobs affected as the world responds to the pandemic.
“The aerospace and defense industry is vital to the prominent position of the United States in global competitiveness, innovation, and technical leadership. The coronavirus pandemic presents a new challenge and our global leadership in this sector will falter if the industry is not protected during this time of crisis. The aerospace and defense contribution to the economy on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis will be crucial for restarting and building the economic engine to its pre-crisis momentum.”
Reston, Virginia-based AIAA represents industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense.
Detroit, Michigan – White House officials have had talks with executives about making ventilators in the coming weeks to treat patients who need breathing support during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Talks are preliminary, but the officials with Ford and General Motors have confirmed that they’re studying feasibility of emergency medical production. All U.S. plants are closed, to slow the spread of the disease, so there’s room for production. Making respirators would require bringing some workers back, figuring out designs and controls, and winning regulatory approval for products.
There are many types of medical ventilators, ranging from simple devices that use mild pressure to force air into patients’ lungs to complex systems that rapidly cycle pure oxygen. COVID-19 attacks the lungs, and in Italy and other countries suffering through widespread outbreaks, doctors have had to pull some sick, older patients off of breathing-assistance devices to support younger, healthier patients.
Great Britain has made a similar appeal to non-medical manufacturers, and several automakers there have pledged to make components for medical parts using excess factory capacity and 3D printers.
In California, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company has the expertise to make masks and ventilators, noting that SpaceX builds life-support systems for space, and Tesla cars have high-tech air-circulation systems. In a tweet, he said the company would be able to offer emergency production capacity, but he downplayed the need, asking if any hospitals were yet running short on equipment.
The U.S. auto industry has a history of supplying the government with emergency equipment in times of crisis. During World War II, the U.S. became known as the Arsenal of Democracy for its ability to rapidly produce munitions, tanks, planes, and ships for the war effort. All of Detroit’s automakers converted their car plants to military production, and companies built new airplane and tank plants that converted to car production after the war.