As novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise, carmakers around the world are being roped in to help produce crucial medical equipment. One key requirement is the ventilators needed for COVID-19 patients. Most countries worldwide are faced with a shortage of ventilators as more and more people are diagnosed with the virus every day. Two manufacturers – Mahindra and Tesla – have stepped forward to help produce more ventilators on an urgent basis and are likely to be joined by other carmakers soon.
In a series of tweets, Mahindra Group chairman, Anand Mahindra, highlighted the gravity of the pandemic, and said the company will immediately begin work on figuring out how it can produce ventilators at its manufacturing facilities. Additionally, Mahindra has also offered to temporarily convert Mahindra Holidays resorts into care facilities for COVID-19 patients. He also mentioned the creation of a Mahindra Foundation fund – to which he will contribute 100 per cent of his salary – to aid those hit the hardest by the shutdown in the company’s value chain.
Abroad, Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has also taken steps to begin aiding production of ventilators. In a tweet on Monday, he said that the companies will be ready to distribute over 1,200 ventilators this week. Musk also confirmed his teams are working on getting other types of personal protective equipment including masks and powered air-purifying respirators.
The US government has green-lit production of ventilators from manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford and Tesla, while the British authorities are said to have reached out to Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce for help with ventilator production. The Volkswagen Group is said to be exploring the option of 3D-printing hospital ventilators, while McLaren is reportedly ready to offer its design expertise where needed.
As carmakers unite to help meet shortage of equipment, the process won’t be straightforward. In a tweet, Musk has noted that making ventilators isn’t difficult, but they cannot be produced instantly. Manufacturers will have to work out how they can produce equipment for medical use in their existing facilities, undertake retooling; and even after that, they will need time to build and test the equipment to make sure they meet the prescribed standards.
Ventilators are fairly complex devices and require rigorous testing, as their unhindered functioning is of utmost importance. Besides, medical equipment manufacturers themselves are working flat-out to increase production of equipment, which is likely to add further stress to an already-hampered supply chain. Components and other materials are sourced from China and other countries, and in the case of a disruption in the supply chain, manufacturers will also have to work on sourcing alternatives.
At the time of this news being written, over 400 people in India have been diagnosed with COVID-19; a number of states are under lockdown and most carmakers – including Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Honda, Mahindra and others – have suspended production.