Shades of those temporary coronavirus treatment hospitals built quickly in China (and now being dismantled as the crisis there eases): BYD, best known here in the UK for the fleets of its full electric buses now operating across the country and especially in London, has unveiled a new manufacturing facility and product lines – face masks and hand sanitisers.
“BYD is proud to announce that it has created the world’s largest mass-produced face masks plant. The plant is now running at full capacity and is able to produce 5m masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day. This allows the firm to help alleviate severe shortages that have affected hospitals and agencies across China in the face of the global COVID-19 outbreak,” the Build Your Dreams company said in a statement.
BYD is an industrial conglomerate which, as well as electric cars and buses, also makes mobile (cell) phones.
Its statement added: “[Our] strong R&D capabilities, combined with [our] manufacturing facilities and creativity, have enabled the firm to mass produce quality masks in a short period of time. Mask production requires impeccably clean and sterile environments and equipment, and [our] dust-free rooms, previously used for the assembly of smartphones, are particularly well-suited for this. During the Spring Festival period, the company was unable to obtain mask-making equipment rapidly enough, so it set about making its own machines. [We] can now make more than a dozen of these machines a day.”
On 8 February, the newly-built production lines in one of BYD’s industrial parks in Shenzhen started to produce these critical supplies with hundreds of staff working both day and night shifts along with machines working around the clock.
On the same day, the company officially announced the production of masks and disinfection gels to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
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In late January it had already begun to assist in the production of masks and disinfection gels to tackle the growing COVID-19 outbreak. A special task force was appointed by chairman and president Wang Chuanfu, consisting of leaders from different business divisions and 3,000 engineers involved in research and development, design, processing and other roles.
The task force “moved with incredible speed” and, in less than two weeks, it had finished work that normally takes two months to complete. It completed both the R&D and manufacturing process of mask production equipment within seven days, whereas on the market, it would normally take 15 to 30 days to fully manufacture a mask producing machine. At the same time, BYD also completed the R&D of medical grade hand sanitisers in six days, which were then shipped to medical staff on the front lines of the epidemic after just eight days.
“A production line for high quality face masks requires about 1,300 parts for various gears, chains, and rollers, 90% of which are BYD’s self-made parts,” said Sherry Li, director general of BYD’s president office.
Since its founding, BYD has set up a specialised team to conduct R&D and manufacturing for its equipment, and the team has been engaged in the independent R&D and manufacturing of complex production lines and equipment, such as electronics, batteries and, of course, the new energy vehicles it is best known for here in the west. Its own machining centres, for example, have a variety of high-precision equipment like grinding machines and moulds.
“This collection of hardware, along with the reserve of professional and technical manpower, has given BYD strong capabilities and rich experience in large scale precision manufacturing over the years,” the company said.
BYD claims, according to the Chinese government’s quality inspection department, quality of its masks “is significantly better than similar masks in the industry”.
As a “multitude” of orders have come after the company announced its production of masks and disinfectants, the most pertinent challenge was the rapid expansion of its production capacity to meet the demand for these much-needed items. With the company making about five to 10 new mask-producing machines on a daily basis, the number of masks produced by BYD is increasing at a rate of approximately 300,000 to 500,000 units per day.
It currently has a total production capacity of 5m masks per day which is equivalent to a quarter of China’s entire production capacity in early February.