DETROIT – General Motors has been awarded a government contract to build 30,000 ventilators -- the biggest need in the battle with the coronavirus (COVID-19).
On Wednesday, government officials announced GM had signed the first defense production act to build ventilators. The company will make 30,000 ventilators by August, officials said.
For now, GM isn’t making cars or trucks, but focusing solely on the new arsenal of the country against COVID-19.
After a month of feverish preparation, the company is ready to build ventilators and start shipping them as early as the end of next week.
General Motors converted its Kokomo, Indiana, clean manufacturing facility formerly used to make precision electronics into a high-end ventilator plant in just days.
The company is already training UAW volunteers and other Metro Detroit residents on the machine’s intricacies, and there will be plenty of people looking to help.
“We need 1,000 people to execute this contract and do it quickly with the sense of urgency that’s needed,” GM spokesperson Jim Cain said.
GM went to nearly 100 American suppliers to get the complicated and difficult-to-build parts for the top-of-the-line life-saver.
“It’s a true, critical care ventilator, which means it has the precision that lets the respiratory therapist and doctors manage the flow of oxygen to these critically ill patients,” Cain said.
With the stay-at-home orders, how can GM put so many people close together to build the ventilators? The company is rearranging how it does assembly lines, with one-way doors in and out and further precautions.
“Work stations will be six feet apart,” Cain said. “There is going to be three cleaning opportunities across each shift and then, before beginning, they’ll have the opportunity to wipe down and clean work areas.”
GM will ship the ventilators to the federal government, which will put them into the stockpile and send them where they’re most needed.