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UK government asks engineering firms to make ventilators

19/03/2020
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The UK government has called on British engineering companies, including automotive and electronics manufacturers to use their resources and expertise to deliver medical ventilators that can support those most severely affected by Covid-19.

Fircroft believe that Anything is possible when engineers are given the support they need to do their jobs well.
(Image via BBC)

It has long been Fircroft’s belief that engineers can change the world. And in the midst of a global crisis, there is a need for engineers to do what they can to provide resources for the medical professionals who are saving lives. 

The government says they are speaking to a wide range of manufacturers to see who is able to make the switch. They are seeking 20,000 extra ventilation machines for intensive care units.

Currently around 5,900 ventilators are owned by the NHS. 

The challenge is not a simple one, with some spokespeople pointing out the obvious differences in skill, materials and machinery required to switch from making car parts to making medical supplies, but so far over they are said to have received over 400 offers to help, and are in discussions with 60 companies willing to take up the challenge. 

Both Vauxhall and Airbus have announced their intention to begin 3D printing and assembling parts, working from technical drawings provided by the government. 

“We are experts at assembly and efficient mass production; we know how to process and we know how to make it lean,” said Helen Foord, head of government relations at Vauxhall.

“We’ve offered our services as an assembly plant and we have 3D-printing capability at Ellesmere Port [car factory] too...Once we have more details on the requirements, we will be able to analyse what we can do.”

Other firms, including Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover are in talks with the government to assess whether they are able to help. 

“As a British company, naturally, we will do whatever we can to support our communities during these unprecedented times,” said a spokesperson for JLR.

Smaller companies are also joining the cause. The BBC reported that Renishaw, a Gloucestershire-based company who make precision measurement parts for medical equipment and aircraft, have announced their intention to provide help where they can:

“We’re still trying to understand the medical device requirements. But we’re willing and want to contribute to the national effort.”

The task is by no means an easy one, with assembly lines not set up for these machines and questions regarding the supply chains - there are plenty of engineering experts calling the request impossible. But with a positive response from companies, there are several options that could be opened. 

“What’s most likely is that if there’s a manufacturer already making ventilators that wants to work 24/7, other manufacturers could help in terms of staff, components and supply chains, supporting them in that way,” assessed David Bailey, professor of business economics at Birmingham University.

“Technicians could be redeployed to operate machinery on different production lines where there are similar manufacturing processes in place.”

As Fircroft always say: “Anything is possible when engineers are given the support they need to do their jobs well."

 
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UK government asks engineering firms to make ventilators - Time to read 3 min
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