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Ford Says It's On Track To Begin Making Ventilators Next Week

A Model A-E ventilator, left, and a simple test lung. Ford plans to begin manufacturing the simple ventilator that operates on air pressure, without the need for electricity, next week.
Ford Motor Co.
A Model A-E ventilator, left, and a simple test lung. Ford plans to begin manufacturing the simple ventilator that operates on air pressure, without the need for electricity, next week.

Ventilators have been in short supply as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, and corporations are shifting production capacity to help fill the gaps.

Last month, Ford Motor Co. announced plans to build simple medical ventilators, with a goal of producing 50,000 of the devices over the next three months.

NPR's Rachel Martin checked in with Adrian Price, Ford's director of global core engineering for vehicle manufacturing, for an update on those plans. He said Ford should be able to make its target by July 4.

We've known for a while that mid-April would be the peak of the virus, and the specific Ford plant that you're going to reopen to make ventilators in Michigan isn't open yet, right?

No, actually, our team has been working round the clock to retool that facility [in Ypsilanti, Mich.]. First of all, to make it safe for our employees in this environment. And then secondly, to get all the station facilities in place, the medical oxygen supplies that we need. In fact, our team of facilities engineers, who are used to retooling facilities to make all new cars and trucks, are out there right now building that facility — and as an example, putting together an oxygen supply tank farm. They started from the ground up and had the thing finished and complete in 10 hours.

Is this on track to open Monday (April 20)?

Yes, absolutely. We'll have all of our UAW employees coming into the plant.

Do you know where the ventilators will go?

We're working with our partners at GE [Healthcare] to get those directly into the hands of the right medical personnel on the front line.

You mentioned the safety of your own workers. Obviously, that is paramount. You talked about oxygen tanks. What else is being done to protect the people who are going to be making these ventilators?

So every employee that comes into the facility, first of all, starts their day with self-screening. And then as they arrive at our facility, they're individually checked into the plants. They go through a temperature screening process. And we're also deploying some new technology to help with the physical separation of employees. And every workstation is separately screened and shielded and is more than 2 meters [6.5 feet] apart. And even in their break areas, they're totally separated and they'll all be wearing face masks and face shields to make sure that they protect both themselves, the equipment they're working with and their fellow employees.

Listen to the full conversation on Morning Edition.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Maureen Pao is an editor, producer and reporter on NPR's Digital News team. In her current role, she is lead digital editor and producer for All Things Considered. Her primary responsibility is coordinating, producing and editing high-impact online components for complex, multipart show projects and host field reporting.