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General Motors is increasing production capacity for facemasks at its Warren, Michigan facility due to the “overwhelming number of requests.”

In addition, the company has shared its plans with GM suppliers along with the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) and the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) to help others ramp up their own production efforts.

“Our ultimate goal is to get more masks to the people who desperately need them,” said GM vice president of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain VP, Shilpan Amin.

“And we recognise it would be counterproductive for GM – or any other manufacturer – to compete for supplies with existing medical mask companies. By making GM’s production processes available to the OESA and the MMA, we hope to facilitate other companies’ efforts to bring more materials, more equipment and ultimately, more face masks to the community.”

MMA president and CEO, John Walsh added: “The Michigan Manufacturers Association has 1,700 companies across all industries and many are looking for ways to help during this crisis.

“GM’s production plans and their willingness to share design specifications will be extremely appreciated as our members accelerate their own efforts to help during this crisis. GM’s efforts are a strong symbol of how manufacturing is driving solutions to solve this crisis.”

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For her part, OESA president and CEO, Julie Fream noted: “The 500+ members of OESA are honoured to lend their manufacturing expertise in this initiative.

“For automotive suppliers, this is an excellent opportunity to champion the efforts of our healthcare workers and provide much needed PPE to help fight the global coronavirus pandemic.”

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, GM is currently producing face masks Warren and in China through a joint venture with SAIC-GM-Wuling. Studies are underway to launch similar initiatives in other countries.

The Warren facility can now produce up to 1.5m facemasks a month. Coordinating with the State of Michigan’s Michigan Community Service Commission, GM’s site in Warren has already delivered face masks to local hospitals. The site will add two additional production lines: a second line for face masks and a new line for filtering facepiece respirators.

For US production, the company partnered with existing automotive suppliers to provide the materials and equipment necessary for mask production.

JR Automation in Holland, Michigan and Esys Automation in Auburn Hills typically provide GM with automotive-manufacturing equipment. For GM’s face-mask production, the company built a mask line that automatically folds, welds, and cuts face masks.

GDC in Goshen, Indiana provides GM with sound-deadening insulation found in vehicle doors, headliners and trunks. To transition to making materials for GM’s face mask production, GDC enlisted the help of OXCO in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Both companies’ employees worked around the clock and during weekends to alter their production processes for the manufacturing of three layers of fabric used to manufacture masks.