Chinese automaker BYD and Italian automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are now producing face masks to help the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
BYD recently revealed that it has created the world’s largest mass-produced face masks plant, which is now running at full capacity, producing five million masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day. This allows the firm to help alleviate severe shortages that have affected hospitals and agencies across China in the face of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
The newly-built production lines in one of BYD’s industrial parks in Shenzhen, China, started to produce these critical supplies, with hundreds of staff working both day and night shifts along with machines working around the clock, on 8 February. In late January, BYD began to assist in the production of masks and disinfection gels to tackle the growing COVID-19 outbreak. A special task force was appointed by BYD Chairman and President Wang Chuanfu, consisting of leaders from different business divisions and more than 3,000 engineers involved in research and development, design, processing and other roles. In less than two weeks, it had finished work that normally takes two months to complete. It completed both the R&D and manufacturing process of mask production equipment within seven days, whereas on the market, it would normally take 15 to 30 days to fully manufacture a mask-producing machine. At the same time, BYD also completed the R&D of medical-grade hand sanitizers in six days, which were then shipped to medical staff on the front lines of the epidemic after just eight days.
BYD’s strong R&D capabilities, combined with its manufacturing facilities and creativity, have enabled the firm to mass-produce quality masks in a short period of time, reflecting its unrelenting efforts throughout the epidemic. Mask production requires impeccably clean and sterile environments and equipment, and BYD’s dust-free rooms, previously used for the assembly of smartphones, are particularly well-suited for this. During the Spring Festival period, the company was unable to obtain mask-making equipment rapidly enough, so it set about making its own machines. BYD can now make more than a dozen of these machines a day.
“A production line for high-quality face masks requires about 1,300 parts for various gears, chains, and rollers, 90% of which are BYD’s self-made parts,” said Sherry Li, director general of BYD’s President Office.
Since its founding, BYD has set up a specialized team to conduct R&D and manufacturing for its equipment, and the team has been engaged in the independent R&D and manufacturing of complex production lines and equipment, such as electronics, batteries and new energy vehicles. Its own machining centers, for example, have a variety of high-precision equipment like grinding machines and molds. This collection of hardware, along with the reserve of professional and technical manpower, has given BYD strong capabilities and rich experience in large-scale precision manufacturing over the years.
Similarly, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced on 23 March that it is manufacturing and donating more than one million protective face masks per month. Production capacity is being installed this week and the company will start manufacturing face masks in the coming weeks with initial distribution across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The face masks are to be donated by FCA to police, EMTs and firefighters, as well as to workers in hospitals and health care clinics. This action is the first of a multifaceted global program being developed by the company through applying manufacturing, supply chain and engineering expertise to support the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Commenting on this initiative, FCA CEO Mike Manley said: “Protecting our first responders and health care workers has never been more important. In addition to the support we are giving to increase the production of ventilators, we canvassed our contacts across the healthcare industry and it was very clear that there is an urgent and critical need for face masks. We’ve marshalled the resources of the FCA Group to focus immediately on installing production capacity for making masks and supporting those most in need on the front line of this pandemic.”
FCA will be working through national, regional and city authorities to ensure that the donated face masks are being directed to the people and facilities with the most urgent need.