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An inside look at GM’s mask manufacturing in Warren

Manufacturing plant converted under a week

WARREN, Mich. – Local 4 was given a rare look inside a General Motors assembly plant in Warren where workers are rushing not to build cars, but to make face-masks.

Rod Meloni had to wear protective gear -- not to protect himself, but to keep the room clean. It was originally where GM used to build transmissions, which necessitated in a cleanroom environment, so it was the perfect place for the auto-maker to make masks.

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The room was converted over a month ago. All they knew when they started was that workers were going to make surgical masks for first responders and healthcare workers. The goal was to get it completed in under a week. GM Manufacturing Director and engineer Rob Portugaise saw to it that they meet that deadline.

“We were able to beat the target by a solid 30 minutes,” Portugaise said.

Manufacturing manger Jim Glynn said the GM employees who volunteered have a personal connection.

“You know, I have a neighbor that’s a nurse. I have a neighbor that is a doctor on the front lines," Glynn said. "I want to do what I can to help.”

They’ve debugged the line, becoming more efficient every day, finding better ways to make the masks and speed the line.

From that simple idea, they’ve managed to make and deliver more than half of a million masks.

“We’re banding together using our know how as company and helping people on the front lines," Portugaise said.

“This is something we can get accomplished," Glynn said. "Every single day we’re pumping out these masks and we know they’re going to people in need, so every single day you can feel good about what you’re doing.”

As it stands currently, GM has two 10-hour shifts working daily, but the demand is so high that they’re planning to increase that to three eight-hour shifts to run 24-hours a day.

GM doesn’t know how long it is going to keep up, but they said they’ll be making masks as long as they’re needed.

Anyone who believes they might have coronavirus should follow the CDC guidelines. Michigan.gov has a list of resources available to those concerned about COVID-19.

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