Ford's New Business Is Coming Along

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
ford s new business is coming along

It’s a temporary foray in a wholly new direction, but Ford’s new line of products is picking up steam — with one new item ready to enter production on Tuesday.

Place the cynical, always suspicious side of your brain on pause for a moment and see what the Blue Oval is doing for your health.

Like those of most other auto manufacturers, Ford’s idled workers and facilities are being put to use cranking out much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers on the front lines of the coronavirus battle. The automakers went into the effort voluntarily, though you read last week how rival General Motors was ordered to produce ventilators via a massive federal contract and a piece of legislation (GM’s initiative was already underway at the time).

On Monday, Ford issued an update on how things are going. Most notably, Ford announced it has crafted, with the help of partner 3M, a new powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) that’s ready to enter production April 14th. Designed and readied for production in four weeks, the unit will be built by 90 UAW workers at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan.

The PAPR (seen above, disassembled and not) “includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to 8 hours,” the automaker said in a statement. “The air blower system – similar to the fan found in F-150’s ventilated seats – is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.”

While Ford says it has the capacity to build 100,000 of these, the unit first needs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approval, which it says it expects before the end of the month.

Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan is tasked with building 3 million face masks. Some 30 UAW workers are on that job, with their numbers expected to grow to 80. The automaker also teamed with supplier Joyson Safety Systems to construct hospital gowns out of airbag material; Ford says output should reach 75,000 per week by this coming weekend, and 100,000 thereafter. The supplier aims to supply 1.3 million gowns by the beginning of July.

Elsewhere, engineers from Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant are working with Thermo Fisher Scientific to boost output of COVID-19 collection kits. As well, some 3 million plastic face shields have already rolled out of Ford factories in the U.S., Canada, Thailand, and India, and a GE Healthcare ventilator — a piece of hardware that’s key to keeping critical patients alive — will enter production at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Michigan next week. Production should reach 50,000 by Independence Day. A similar effort, though with a different partner, is underway in hard-hit UK.

Hopefully things will have diminished to something approaching normalcy by the time people start speaking of July the 4th.

[Images: Ford]

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4 of 17 comments
  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Apr 14, 2020

    All of this is great. But why do I think Ford and GM are going to ramp up production just in time to be late for the worst of this pandemic?

  • Amca Amca on Apr 14, 2020

    "While Ford says it has the capacity to build 100,000 of these, the unit first needs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approval, which it says it expects before the end of the month." It's going to take another . . . 17 days . . . for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to look this over? I'd like to know what lo' NIOSH needs to do that takes that long. I'm all ears, here. Convince me this can't be done faster.

  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
  • AMcA Phoenix. Awful. The roads are huge and wide, with dedicated lanes for turning, always. Requires no attention to what you're doing. The roads are idiot proofed, so all the idiots drive - they have no choice, because everything is so spread out.
  • Leonard Ostrander Pet peeve: Drivers who swerve to the left to make a right turn and vice versa. They take up as much space as possible for as long as possible as though they're driving trailer trucks or school busses. It's a Kia people, not a Kenworth! Oh, and use your turn signals if you ever figure out where you're going.
  • Master Baiter This is horrible. Delaying this ban will raise the Earth's temperature by 0.00000001°C in the year 2100.
  • Alan Buy a Skoda Superb.