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May 14, 2020

Ford turns UK warehouse into ventilator parts factory

Ford is making ventilator subassemblies for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK after transforming an empty warehouse into a manufacturing facility in record time.

By Olly Wehring

Ford is making ventilator subassemblies for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK after transforming an empty warehouse into a manufacturing facility in record time.

Employees worked for three weeks to get the high tech production line up and running, a feat the automaker said would usually take a full year.

The facility is part of the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium – a collaboration between tech and engineering companies to deliver 15,000 Penlon Prima ES02 ventilators the NHS will use for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

"It took many late nights and a lot of hard work, but the ingenuity and commitment of our people has been just remarkable, and it shows how a crisis can bring out the best in us," said Graham Hoare, chairman, Ford of Britain. "The way they have sacrificed time with family and also been so willing to learn something new to help build these life-saving devices is full testimony to their desire to deliver, and it makes me very proud to be part of this team."

Converting a warehouse at the company's Dagenham Engine Plant site into an ISO9001 accredited facility required the repurpose of existing equipment and establishment od a production line for components boxes and 8.4-inch remote display screens.

3D printing processes were employed to make components for 200 workstations which adhere to social distancing requirements and are staffed by volunteers including operators, trainers, technicians and engineers from a range of departments. At full production, around 650 people work three shifts at the facility.

Ford is part of the Consortium Executive that includes Airbus, McLaren, Penlon and Siemens. To collaborate day-to-day with Penlon, located in Oxford, UK, the Ford team is using HoloLens 2 virtual reality headsets which enable remote technicians and specialists to view the perspective of the wearer on a computer screen and provide real time guidance and information, seen as holograms in the wearer's field of view.

Ford is also helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 with Project Apollo, the company's global effort to produce personal protection equipment, assist with local and national initiatives, and increase the availability of ventilators and respirators. 

The Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany, recently assisted with the development of a new powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR), being produced at the company's Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan, in the US.

Ford is also producing protective face masks and shields as part of initiatives to deliver a safe working environment for employees performing essential roles at Ford facilities during the COVID-19 crisis. 

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