Wednesday, 06 May 2020 20:07

One Million Masks and Counting: A Deeper Look at GM's PPE Production

One Million Masks and Counting: A Deeper Look at GM's PPE Production GM


On May 5, just four weeks after initial production began, GM delivered its 1 millionth face mask.

What began as a small grassroots project has grown to supply hospitals across GM’s home state of Michigan. GM team members who have been helping with mask production signed the box containing the millionth mask as a way to say thank you and to recognize the workers battling this pandemic, day in and day out.


So what does 1 million face masks look like? To put it into GM’s “unit system,” it’s almost the equivalent of 32 new 2021 Chevrolet Suburbans filled to max capacity, with 30,800 masks per load.


The need for personal protective equipment for life-saving frontline workers extends beyond face masks. With the help of GM's suppliers and 3D printing technology, GM has also produced and donated nearly 70,000 face shields since the launch of the project in late March, around the time when critical shortages in medical PPE were starting to develop.


“3D printing allowed us to react quickly to the need for face shields and get initial units to people on the front line almost immediately,” said Steve Hart, GM’s director of design and fabrication operations. “3D printing did exactly what it’s intended to do---it let us get a proof of concept and initial production off the ground and make incremental improvements based on recipient feedback prior to mass production.”


Face masks and shields have been delivered to more than a dozen hospitals, as well as to firefighters and police officers in the Detroit metro area, home of GM’s headquarters. Detroit has been one of the hardest hit areas by the coronavirus. These masks will help protect servicepeople and personnel testing residents at nursing homes and shelters for COVID-19.


GM is taking action in its communities around the globe. Beyond its home city and other U.S. operations, GM also has facilities in Mexico and at its joint venture, SAIC-GM-Wuling, in China manufacturing masks, and GM Canada is preparing a portion of its Oshawa plant to make face masks for the Canadian government. The mask line will be based on the production model already operating in Michigan.

Additionally, GM's trim technicians are contributing to the development of PPE by leveraging their sewing skills to make hospital gowns from donated materials. The team may be small---seven people in all---but in the last month, they’ve sewn more than 1,400 gowns, filling a serious need at a hospital in Michigan. Like the face shield project, initial prototypes were developed and sampled by hospitals for evaluation, and improvements were made, resulting in a lightweight, breathable gown.


As GM develops, builds, packs and ships PPE from its facilities to the people who need it most, it is also learning and evolving its processes along the way.


By asking for feedback from professionals using its medical shields, GM has been able to fine-tune its design to improve the visor and protective shield for more comfortable, sustained wear.


Those conversations also surfaced both the importance of and need for aerosol boxes in treating patients with COVID-19. These see-through containers help protect medical staff while they are intubating patients, so GM's design fabrication team has produced nearly 200 hand-formed boxes for hospitals in need.


To enable collaboration and greater PPE supply, GM has also shared its manufacturing plans for face masks with GM suppliers, the Original Equipment Suppliers Association and the Michigan Manufacturers Association. GM's goal is to get more masks to the people who desperately need them.


All in, there is an army of just over 3,000 people from across General Motors who have mobilized to help fight COVID-19. The safety of GM's customers and communities has always been its No. 1 priority, and the pandemic we face now is no different. As many on the front lines fight to keep people safe, GM will do everything it can to help do the same for them.


Source: GM

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