On Sunday, President Donald Trump challenged the Big Three automakers to switch their production lines over to manufacturing ventilators to meet the increasing demand states and hospitals say they will need to handle the spread of the coronavirus.
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Not to be left out, Tesla chief Elon Musk tweeted over the weekend about his meeting with one of the leading ventilator companies.
But as noble as these intentions may be, supply chain experts say it is not like flipping a switch in a factory and such a move could take months before a line is operational. “When you are repurposing a factory, it really depends on how similar the new product is to the existing products in your product line,” said Kaitlin Wowak, a professor at the University of Notre Dame who focuses on industrial supply chains. “It’s going to be a substantial pivot to start producing an entirely different item.”
The National Institute of Health estimates there are slightly more than 62,000 ventilators in the U.S. A February report by Johns Hopkins University stated that "During a severe influenza pandemic, it has been projected that the demand for assisted ventilation in hospitals could increase by 25% or more." That would mean an additional 15,000 machines.
So where would they come from? Here is a look at some of the top manufacturers of ventilators, many of which have plants here in the United States.
Vyaire Medical is a Chicago-based supplier of respiratory care devices and is the largest supplier of "consumables," or masks and tubes needed for patients to use the ventilators.
“We are receiving unprecedented demand for our ventilation equipment,” a company spokesman told FOX Business on Monday.
The company currently has 200 employees working on the manufacturing line with plans to "rapidly expand that". On average, a single ventilator takes about 2 to 6 days to build and the company has produced an average of 1,000 to 1,700 ventilators. The company added that they are “looking at mulitplying that by 10 greater” given the current demand.
Vyaire has two manufacturing plants, one located in Mexicali, Mexico for the production of masks and ventilator tubes, and one in Palm Springs, CA for the production of the ventilator machines themselves.
In a press release on Thursday, Chicago-based GE Healthcare said it would work "around the clock" to increase its output of medical equipment including CTs, ultrasound devices, mobile X-ray systems, patient monitors and ventilators in an effort to help combat the coronavirus.
“As the global pandemic evolves, there is unprecedented demand for medical equipment, including ventilators. We continue to explore all options to support this increased need,” GE Healthcare President & CEO Kieran Murphy said.
In order to meet the demand, the company said that it is adding manufacturing lines to ventilator production and increasing the number of shifts available in order to speed up how many ventilators can be produced. They will also hire additional manufacturing employees and shift current employees to support increased demand immediately.
In addition, the company said it would monitor the health of its field service engineers and provide them with personal protective equipment, work with its supply chain partners to mitigate shortages, and work with global regulators to help address customer questions about how to meet patient needs.
The company manufactures its ventilators at a plant in Madison, Wisconsin.
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Medtronic is a medical device manufacturer based in Dublin, Ireland with over 90,000 employees worldwide.
The company says it has increased production by more than 40 percent to date with 250 employees currently dedicated to the production of ventilators. The company said in a tweet on Thursday that it has plans to "more than double" that number.
“Medtronic recognizes the demand for ventilators in this environment has far outstripped supply,” said Medtronic executive vice president Bob White in a statement, “No single company will be able to fill the current demands of global healthcare systems. However, with all manufacturers increasing their production and through partnerships with governments, hospitals and global health organizations, Medtronic is committed to getting more ventilators into the market and to the right locations in the world to help doctors and patients dealing with COVID-19.”
In order to meet the demand, Medtronic will transfer staff from its other sites to support its ramp up activities as well as make additional manufacturing shifts availabe to turn the plant into a 24/7 operation.
Ventec Life Systems
Washington-based ventilator manufacturer Ventec Life Systems announced in a joint statement Friday that it will partner with General Motors to help increase production of ventilators that are needed in hospitals dealing with patients who have the coronavirus.
“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” added Chris Kiple, Ventec Life Systems CEO. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”
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Ventec Chief Strategy Officer Chris Brooks told FOX Business on Saturday that the partnership is expected to increase production from 150 ventilators a month to close to 1,000.
Hamilton Medical is a ventilator manufacturer based in Bonaduz, Switzerland. The company said in a statement on Friday that since the beginning of the year, it has "massively increased" its capacity for producing ventilators and is aiming to double its production by the end of April.
"Normally, we produce 220 ventilators per week. We have already increased output by 50% compared to that. We are aiming at producing over 20,000 ventilators this year", the company said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story