Engineers and technicians set-up and test the machines that will be used to manufacture Level 1 face masks Monday, March 30, 2020 at the General Motors Warren, Michigan manufacturing facility. Production will begin next week and within two weeks ramp up to 50,000 masks per day, with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

General Motors has created and delivered over 1 million medical masks.

This milestone was reached almost exactly one month after GM began its Mask-making operations on April 6th. Today, General Motors is making masks at a rate of roughly triple that milestone. “Our goal was to produce 1.5 million masks a month,” said GM spokesman Monte Doran. “Now we are at 3 million masks a month,” Doran told The Detroit Free Press.

Workers produce N95-style filtering facepiece respirators Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at the General Motors manufacturing facility in Warren, Michigan. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

One major bottleneck was the sanitizing step. After the masks are created, they need to be sanitized in order to ensure they are free from contaminants that could infect the person who wears it. GM uses sanitizing machines the size of a garage freezer to blast the masks with ozone to render any contaminants harmless. However, the single machine that GM had was not keeping pace with production. GM needed much more final cleaning capacity in order to maximize its mask delivery capability.

Workers begin final preparation for manufacturing Level 1 face masks Wednesday, April 1, 2019 at the General Motors facility in Warren, Michigan. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

The solution was provided by the National Hockey League. NHL teams use machines that sanitize the sweaty, bloody, dirty gear, skates and sweaters the players use during games, practices, and training. These machines can also sanitize medical masks prior to packaging. The person credited with the solution was Detroit Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer. He was able to donate the Red Wings’ cleaning machine as well as secure machines from two additional teams.

Nick Kekouha loads Level 1 face masks into the sanitizing room Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at the General Motors manufacturing facility in Warren, Michigan. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

We can now put the masks in a room, close the door and the machines can run for 20 minutes and disinfect 8,000 masks,” Doran said. “It’s an exponential improvement.”

General Motors is just one of many automakers who has stepped up to manufacture the medical machines and protective equipment needed by frontline medical workers. “It’s amazing how much our employees have accomplished in such a short time,” said Mark Reuss, GM president. “People from all corners of the company have really stepped up to help, and to lend their talents, time and energy to battle coronavirus.”

Source Note: Key facts for this story were sourced from the Detriot Free Press and the GM Media Support page. Images courtesy of GM.