| 6:11 PM EST

Ford, GM Ready to Phase Out Ventilator Production

Missions accomplished as companies complete 80,000-unit order


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Ford and General Motors say they are close to filling a combined 80,000 orders for medical ventilators.

The companies began gearing up in March to make the mechanical breathing machines as American medical emergency rooms became overwhelmed by the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebuilding National Reserve

At the time, existing U.S. supplies of the machines were low in the Strategic National Stockpile. The White House announced a target of amassing 130,000 ventilators from carmakers and others by the end of this year.

GM ventilator assembly  (Image: GM)

The U.S. currently has an inventory of 108,000 ventilators, with another 12,000 currently in use in American hospitals, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. HHS tells Reuters it has received about 69,000 of the breathing machines from Ford and GM and their production partners.

GM and Ventec

GM and Seattle-based Ventec Life Systems allied in March to fill a $489 million HHS order for 30,000 of the machines. GM converted production space at its parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., to make the Ventec-designed devices, which are normally produced in low volumes.

The resulting operation at Kokomo employed hundreds of workers who had been idled on March 18 when the Detroit Big Three carmakers suspended production across the U.S. The setup also helped GM to develop coronavirus safety protocols to deploy when its factories began to reopen in May.

GM says it will transfer its Kokomo ventilator operations to Ventec on Sept. 1.

Ford and Airon

In a similar venture, Ford and GE Healthcare affiliate Airon partnered to supply 50,000 GE-designed ventilators from a repurposed Ford factory in Rawsonville, Mich. The project filled a $336 million contract between GE and the government, Reuters reports.

Airons Model A ventilator  (Image: Airons)

Airon normally made three Model A ventilators per day at its home plant in Florida. Ford targeted 1,500 units in its first 10 days of operation and aimed to hike around-the-clock monthly output to as many as 30,000 devices by June.

Ford transferred fulltime workers who had been assigned to the Rawsonville factory back to their home plants in May. Temporary workers who continued production will be considered for jobs at Ford’s Bronco SUV plant nearby when the GE contract ends.

The Takeaway

GM, Ford and their partners stepped up and delivered with impressive flexibility and speed. Now, it’s all about continuing the relaunch of “normal” business operations.