Ford Motor and GE Healthcare announced on Monday plans to produce 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days with the support of 500 United Auto Workers employees in Michigan to help in the battle against the novel coronavirus.
A new simple ventilator design, licensed by GE Healthcare from Florida-based Airon Corp., operates on air pressure without the need for electricity, officials explained during a conference call.
“The reduction in complexity allows us to move more swiftly,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president of enterprise product line management at Ford.
The two companies will “leverage” the design of Airon Corp.’s FDA-approved ventilator and work with UAW members to build the GE/Airon Model A-E ventilator, starting the week of April 20 at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Baumbick said.
It is the automaker’s manufacturing experience that attracted GE Healthcare, which brings the clinical oversight and will license the current ventilator design from Airon Corp. — a small, privately held company specializing in high-tech pneumatic life support products, the news release said.
It was GE Healthcare that brought the Airon Corp. design to Ford’s attention as part of the companies’ efforts to scale production of ventilators quickly to help during this pandemic, the Ford release said.
“We’re continuing to work very closely with the government on the demand for this type of product,” Tom Westrick, vice president and chief quality officer at GE Healthcare, said on the call.
Ford said in its news release, “According to White House Defense Production Act Coordinator Peter Navarro, the Ford/GE Healthcare team is moving in ‘Trump time’ to speed urgently needed ventilators to the front lines of the Trump administration’s full-scale war against the coronavirus.”
Ford is sending people to work in Florida as part of the collaboration, lending its engineering and logistics support, said Adrian Price, director of Global Manufacturing Core Engineering at Ford. “We’ve been able to very quickly create one team who is focused on breaking all the constraints and bottlenecks in the process.”
Ford projected producing 1,500 ventilators by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July 4. The companies noted that the UAW workers are paid volunteers who will work on three shifts.
At full production, Ford said it plans to make 7,200 Airon-licensed Model A-E ventilators per week.
“From the days of Rosie the Riveter, UAW members have stepped up during difficult times in this nation’s history for the good of us all,” said UAW International President Rory Gamble in remarks. “We are working very closely with Ford to make sure that all CDC guidelines are followed and that we are exercising an abundance of caution inside the plant. Ford and our UAW Ford members should be commended for stepping up in these very uncertain times.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, who works closely with the automakers, applauded the project late Monday.
“Eager, hardworking men and women are answering the call to volunteer to meet the critical need,” she said in a statement. “We all have a role to play in winning this battle.”
Follow Detroit Free Press reporter Phoebe Wall Howard on Twitter@phoebesaid.