Saving lives, the Big Three way

They say we’ll never experience the kind of national sacrifice that our society endured while mobilizing against tyranny during World War II. Perhaps that’s true, but the greatest asset the United States has enjoyed in the national travails that have marked its history are its people. They are resourceful, determined, compassionate, and as a group, they’ve got this thing about backing down from a fight. Americans just don’t do that, and here’s proof. Once again, the U.S. auto industry is devoting its technical expertise and can-do mindset to take on a daunting enemy. Today, the Ford Motor Company announced a partnership with 3M and General Electric to produce critically needed medical supplies that are in dangerously low supply during the exploding coronavirus outbreak.

The Ford image above reminds me of the scene in Apollo 13 where NASA and the spacecraft crew had to jerry-rig an oxygen-filtration system using sweat socks and various junk on board the flight. Or maybe the time my friend Don Miller at Team Penske sketched the first design for NASCAR roof flaps on the back of an envelope. It’s the same kind of entrepreneurial attitude that will see Ford helping to produce powered air-purifying respirators like the one sketched out above. It’s wonderfully simple, the prototype combining a battery pack, a 3M filter, and the blower motor that’s ordinarily part of the 2020 F-150’s seat cooling system. Volume production will take place at a to-be-identified Ford facility. Another Ford site is being earmarked for a joint effort with the UAW to make more than 100,000 protective face shields per week that are desperately needed by health professionals. Another initiative has Ford joining forces with GE Healthcare to rush-produced a simplified version of GE’s existing ventilator design, which can assist COVID-19 patients with breathing while undergoing hospital treatment. Ford has earmarked its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford Township, Michigan, which has 3D printing capability, to manufacture disposable ventilators at the starting rate of 1,000 per month. The first Ford-made face masks will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace hospitals. Meanwhile, Ford of China and joint-venture partner Jiangling Motors have donated 10 fully equipped Transit ambulances for use in the province of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected and identified. Speaking of COVID-19, Ford also announced late this morning that its North American assembly plants will remain closed past March 30, when the original self-distancing recommendations were due to expire.

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