GM is starting to produce surgical Masks in big numbers. Here are the images.
As of last evening, GM had produced its first pilot run of 2,000 surgical masks. The test masks were produced by teams working through the weekend.
General Motors kicked off its COVID-19 relief efforts on March 20th making surgical Masks to help fight the COVID-19 Pandemic. In just seven days the company went from making zero masks to its first production run. In the coming seven days GM says it will have enough inventory to deliver 20,000 to front line healthcare workers.
GM-Trucks.com spoke with a Boston-area oncologist, Dr. Hande Tuncer, who sees patients who are almost all immune-compromised and mainly in their senior years. Dr. Tuncer told us that masks like the ones GM is producing can fight COVID-19 transmission in multiple ways. Medical staff are already using surgical masks over N95 masks to add to the longevity and effectiveness of the N95s. Level 1 surgical masks are also helpful when worn by those suspected of having, or known to have the COVID-19 virus as a way to reduce transmission to others. Dr. Tuncer further predicts that wearing some type of mask will be the norm as we transition from a stay-at-home policy to the resumption of limited interaction in public.
GM’s manufacturing plant in Warren was reconfigured to include an ISO Class 8-equivalent cleanroom. The GM team cleared approximately 31,000 square feet to accommodate the mask production lines. Crews then installed new utility connections to power the production equipment and assembly stations.
GM says its global partners were the key to being able to get the operation up and running so quickly. GM leveraged more than 30 engineers, designers, buyers and members of the manufacturing team. They were asked to help with product development, sourcing materials and equipment, and planning the production process. “The first people we called were those who work with fabric vehicle components,” said Karsten Garbe, GM plant director, Global Pre-Production Operations. “In a few days, the company’s seat belt and interior trim experts became experts in manufacturing face masks.”
Machinery for the mask manufacturing was sourced locally. GM collaborated with JR Automation in Holland, Michigan and Esys Automation in Auburn Hills to design and build the custom machinery needed to assemble the masks. GM sourced the raw materials to create the metal nose pieces, elastic straps and blown, non-woven fabric filter material by leveraging GM’s existing supply chain.
Once the site was cleared and prepped, production equipment and materials were then delivered to the facility. GM’s volunteer crews worked around the clock to install equipment and stage the production line. The team then tested each step to improve quality and production speed. The first mask was complete at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 27.
“Not only did the team make their goal, but they over-delivered,” said Thom. “They actually beat our deadline, running the first mask through the equipment 30 minutes ahead of target. We’re excited because this means we’re even closer to being able to protect the healthcare teams who are working tirelessly to save lives.”
Based on GM’s current rate of production and progress it will have 20,000 masks ready for delivery on Wednesday, April 8. The plan is to ramp the operation up quickly to 50,000 masks every day – or up to 1.5 million masks a month.