KOKOMO – General Motors announced Friday it is bringing an estimated 1,000 workers back to its Kokomo plant to begin making ventilators and could start shipping them out as soon as next month.
GM said it will deploy the workers to scale production of critical-care ventilators immediately. Working with the United Auto Workers, GM has brought back employees from its Kokomo and Marion facilities, according to a release. GM closed its General Motors Components Holdings plant in Kokomo last Friday in response to the pandemic.
Across all manufacturers, there is a global backorder of ventilators capable of supporting patients fighting COVID-19. Experts have said hundreds of thousands of new machines could be needed over the course of the pandemic. The United States currently has between 160,000 and 200,000 ventilators.
Ventec, a company that makes ventilators, and GM said they have been working around the clock to meet the urgent need for more of the machines. Efforts to set up tooling and manufacturing capacity at the GM Kokomo facility are already underway to produce Ventec’s critical-care ventilator, VOCSN, company officials said.
The companies say they are adding thousands of units of new capacity for the machines through its setup at the Kokomo plant, which will have a significantly expanded supply chain capable of supporting high-volume production. GM said it is donating its resources at cost.
Depending on the needs of the federal government, Ventec and GM said they are poised to deliver the first ventilators next month and ramp up to a manufacturing capacity of more than 10,000 ventilators per month, with the capability to scale further.
“We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “This partnership has rallied the GM enterprise and our global supply base to support Ventec, and the teams are working together with incredible passion and commitment.”
Meanwhile, local employees at the plant are waiting to hear details on how and when they might return to work to start making ventilators. GM’s Kokomo facility supports the production of precision electrical components and is approximately 2.6 million square feet, located on more than 270 acres.
Greg Wohlford, shop chairman of United Auto Workers Local 292, which represents the plant, said Friday he is waiting to hear specifics on how the workforce will be deployed and trained to make ventilators.
“It’s going to happen, we’re just trying to work out all the details,” he said. “But everybody is thrilled. Everyone is really excited.”
UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, director of the UAW GM department, said the union was “happy to work with GM during this pandemic for the health and safety and good of our nation, as we collaborate towards the production of ventilators.”
“The UAW has a proud history of stepping up in times of national emergency,” he said in a release. “General Motors should be commended for stepping up at a crucial moment in our history. At the UAW, we are – all in – to find ways to partner together to flatten this curve and save lives.”
Since last Friday, Ventec and GM say their teams have been “tirelessly and seamlessly working together to create and implement a plan for immediate, scaled production of critical-care ventilators” in Kokomo.
The companies said they have enough inventory to build up to 200,000 ventilators through developing sourcing plans for the more than 700 individual parts that are needed to build the machines.
SOURCE: Kokomo Tribune