March 25 (EIRNS)—Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the evening of March 23, that General Motors “was redeploying their Kokomo [Indiana] workforce and their production line to make ventilators.” GM is doing this in collaboration with ventilator-maker Ventec Life Systems. Though it appears that production of the targeted goal of 200,000 machines won’t start until mid- to late- April, the first steps are taking on the character of a Roosevelt-style mobilization.
GM’s senior management announced on Sunday, March 22, that GM has commitments from Ventec’s parts suppliers to provide 93% of the ventilators’ parts to GM and the automaker is developing the plans for the remaining 28 parts. Ventec is sharing with GM the design for the machines, something which many companies would not do. One of Ventec’s respiratory ventilators is about the size of a carryon, portable, and combines ventilation, oxygen, cough assistance, suction and nebulization; it is designed to be used in a hospital or patient’s home.
Exemplary in the mobilization mode is the work of Minneapolis-based auto supplier Twin City Die Casting, which signed a contract to supply Ventec about nine months ago, and thus is familiar with what is needed. The employee-owned company makes aluminum and magnesium parts for the ventilator compressor and housing.
Twin City is converting its die casts and assembly arrangement to go from making parts for the normal level of 150 ventilators per month to as many as thousands per month. Twin City CEO Todd Nelson said that such a conversion would normally take 12 weeks, but his workers are doing this in one week, as they work almost non-stop. At the same time, Twin City and its rivals are sharing intellectual properties, a rare occurrence, to speed the process, in order to defeat the novel coronavirus.
The GM Kokomo plant will have to be thoroughly disinfected and scrubbed clean in order to make a sensitive medical product, and will need a few weeks to retool its machine tools. The United States healthcare system has an estimated 160,000 mechanical ventilators and an additional 16,600 in the National Strategic Stockpile, according to the Center for Public Integrity.