Repurposing to combat COVID-19

16 April 2020

In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, manufacturing companies across the globe have been adapting their production plans in an effort to combat the virus, says analytics company GlobalData.

This repurposing involves both production and R&D capabilities. For example, luxury brands such as LVMH are switching production lines from producing perfume to making hand sanitizer; industrial companies are making hygienic masks; distilleries are creating disinfecting alcohol and automotive companies are evaluating options to produce medical devices such as ventilators.

Electric car manufacturer BYD has opened what is believed to be the largest face mask plant in Shenzhen which is expected to produce 500,000 masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants every day. BYD claims that the plant will enable it to address the severe shortage of these items. A production line for high-quality face masks requires around 1,300 parts, including various gears, chains and rollers, 90% of which BYD already has.

Somik Das, senior power analyst at GlobalData, said: “The Chinese Government has allowed companies to re-open manufacturing only if, among other measures, they had enough face masks for their employees. This led to a surge in the demand for masks, sanitizers and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Demand exceeded supply, which prompted electronic manufacturers such as Foxconn to begin producing face masks, with the clear incentive of getting production up and running again. The pandemic has largely affected several industries across the globe and in order to come out of this situation successfully, many companies have adapted and are helping to stop the transmission.”

Carmaker Shanghai General Motors Wuling (SGMW) received medical-grade textiles from its supplier that previously provided interior textile for cars. Using this, it started manufacturing PPEs. Simultaneously, ZF Friedrichshafen, a German automotive supplier, bought a small face mask company in China, transported the machines to its factories and produced 100,000 masks a day.

Das concludes: “All these examples of repurposing are not being completed with the idea of revenue generation but to help out the workforce. The employees form the heart of every organization and once they are taken care of, organisations can return to normal functioning. Hence, these are effective initiatives that can limit the damage caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and help industries quickly recover from it.”

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