In the UK, a consortium including Ford, Rolls-Royce, plane manufacturer Airbus and the Formula 1 racing teams are manufacturing ventilators for the National Health Service. The group, called VentilatorChallengeUK, has received an order for more than 15,000 machines based on an existing design by UK company Smiths Group. In Spain, SEAT is making ventilators using adapted windscreen wiper motors (pictured).
Companies around the globe are also falling over each other to produce or donate protective face masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In the US, Ford, General Motors and Tesla have already built and sent out face shields for hospital staff while Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has delivered one million masks. Chinese automaker BYD has also retooled its manufacturing facilities to produce five million masks per day, which makes it the world's number one producer. The firm is also making 300,000 bottles of sanitiser gel each day.
General Motors' China-based plants have also switched to producing face masks in its venture SAIC-GM-Wuling, with 14 production lines able to churn out 1.4 millon masks a day. Announcing newly-designed machines at one of its plants in Liuzhou, southwest China, the company is making masks similar to the N95 mask. Medics and frontline staff use N95 masks, which block 95% of particles of 0.3 microns and above. The carmakers are also upgrading their vehicle air filtration systems to protect passengers.
Dyson, famous for its bagless vacuum cleaners, has designed a new type of ventilator called the "CoVent" in partnership with medical research company The Technology Company in just 10 days. The company rushed to design and manufacture the machines as it looked as though the UK had a dangerous shortage. It was expected that Dyson would produce 10,000 ventilators, however demand has not been as high as anticipated, and Sir James Dyson, who put £10 million (£12.4m) of his own money into the efforts, has recently said that those machines were no longer needed. None of the hardwork should go to waste however, as Dyson hopes that other countries will be able to put the devices to good use.
H&M, the world's second biggest fashion retailer, has promised to produce protective face masks for medical staff working in Europe. Of the first 100,000 face masks completed on 2 April, half were sent to Spain and half to Italy. According to a statement from the company, it has offered its help to the EU and is trying to work out how to use its supply chains to meet the most urgent needs.
Inditex, the parent company of fast-fashion retailer Zara, is using its factory space as production lines to manufacture face masks and hospital gowns. The Spanish-based company claims to be in the process of distributing some two million masks across Spain, which at the time of writing has had the second most coronavirus-related deaths per capita.
American fashion house Ralph Lauren has switched from luxury clothing to medical garments, announcing on 26 March that it would shift its production lines to making 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns for use in the US. Kering, the company which owns luxury brands Gucci and Prada, has committed to producing three million masks to help plug shortages.
Parkdale Inc., a large yarn spinner based in Gastonia, North Carolina has switched to producing medical masks for hospitals. Partnering with clothing brands including Hanesbrands, Fruit of the Loom, American Giant and Los Angeles Apparel, it’s creating new supply chains with the hope of producing up to 10 million face masks a week across the US and Central America.
From clothing brands to chemicals manufacturers, a lot of international companies are doing what they can to help in the battle against coronavirus. French firm Arkema has altered one of its production lines to make alcohol-based disinfectant. The chemicals company is endeavouring to produce 20 tonnes of the product per week at its Rhône Alpes Research Centre and will provide the fruits of its labour to health authorities in the country free of charge.
Alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a market that the booze industry has also been able to tap into. BrewDog, the irreverant Scottish craft brewer founded in 2007, has created its very own 'Punk' hand sanitiser. The company has transformed its Aberdeen distillery into a production line for the vital product and has donated more than 50,000 bottles to the UK's NHS and local charities, according to the latest figures from its website.
The world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch, which produces Budweiser among other famous beer brands, is producing 250ml hand sanitiser bottles. The company said it would be working with the Red Cross to distribute the product to hospitals and pharmacies, emphasising that hand sanitiser would be made in addition to, not instead of, beer.
It's not only beer companies that are changing what they're producing during the pandemic – spirit producers are also getting involved. France's Pernod Ricard is donating ethanol and manufacturing the end product too. The parent company of Absolut vodka and Perrier-Jouët Champagne is repurposing distilleries in Spain and Ireland into hand sanitiser factories, and it is also donating enough pure alcohol to make 1.8 million bottles of hand sanitiser. The maker of Bombay Sapphire gin, Patrón Tequila and the eponymous rum, Bacardi has also sprung onto the hand gel bandwagon. The Bermuda-based booze company is planning to make 1.1 million bottles at distilleries in the US, UK, Mexico, Italy and France.
The British Honey Company, a distillery based in Buckinghamshire, England will be producing hand sanitiser to make up for national shortages. The company, which usually makes vodka and gin from honey, was given the go-ahead by tax authorities to use its spare capacity to make sanitiser. Its formula consist of 70% alcohol (health authorities recommend alcohol concentrations of at least 60%) along with green tea and honey extracts. The business has reported that the sales of the sanitiser have generated more than £500,000 ($614k), which more than offsets the income lost from their core offering.
A lot of oil companies are freeing up their raw materials so that they can be made into essential products during the pandemic, but PKN Orlen has cut out the middle man and is making its own hand gel. Poland's largest oil refiner started manufacturing the disinfectant in March, with the capacity to produce up to a million litres if needed. The production line normally reserved for screenwash has been repurposed to churn out the vast quantities of hand gel.
Luxury goods group LVMH, which owns fashion house Louis Vuitton, has swapped perfume for hand sanitiser in three factories in a bid to beat shortages in France. The group pledged to manufacture hand sanitiser on Saturday 14 March, and by the following Monday was already rolling its first bottles off production lines and delivering them to French health authorities.
Beiersdorf, the German company which makes Nivea and other skincare brands, is changing its production lines to produce medical-grade disinfectants. It is using three production plants, one in Spain and two in Germany, to manufacture 500 tonnes of disinfectant to be distributed to hospitals, clinics and public services. According to a Beiersdorf spokesperson, the manufacturing takes place on dedicated production lines and will not affect ordinary production.
SmileDirectClub, a teledentistry company based in Nashville, Tennessee is one of the largest 3D printing manufacturers in the US. The company has put this technology to good use amid the pandemic, partnering with medical supply companies and health organisations to produce oxygen valves for ventilators, as well as face shields.
Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn usually manufactures iPhones, but lately it’s started rolling protective masks off its production lines instead. In an announcement it said it would be producing two million a day. At the beginning of March, electronics company Sharp, which is owned by Foxconn, announced it would begin producing up to 50,000 face masks a day at its factory in Japan. It did have to halt online sales of the protective gear however, after its website crashed due to overwhelming demand.
At the end of March, British coin manufacturer The Royal Mint begun making medical visors at its factory in Llantrisant, Wales. Following the successful development of a prototype, the first batch of visors are already being used by staff at The Royal Glamorgan Hospital in South Wales, BusinessLive has reported. Production lines are working 24/7 to meet targets of producing 4,000 visors per day, and the coin company plans to make nearly two million visors in total to keep essential workers safe.
Coronavirus has hit the hospitality industry hard, yet that hasn’t stopped some companies from putting their efforts into fighting the crisis. French firm Accor Hospitality Group, the largest hospitality company in Europe with more than 4,800 hotels worldwide, has created an online platform called CEDA to help provide beds for homeless people. Partnering with French authorities, it will be offering up to 2,000 beds in 40 hotels across the country. The firm also stepped up to help those testing positive for COVID-19, and from mid-April hotels in the Paris region were open to those who were asymptomatic or only suffering with mild symptoms.
The Four-Star Ayre Gran Hotel Colón which opened in 1967 in Madrid, Spain has been converted into a hospital for COVID-19 patients. The hotel was renovated in 2010 and features a 1,200-square-metre garden and an art gallery. In the Madrid region alone, at least 40 hotels have offered access to authorities, which will provide an additional 9,000 beds for potential patients.
The world-famous Four Seasons Hotel chain is also offering free rooms for medical workers in its Manhattan hotel, in a bid to protect their families and curb the spread of COVID-19. In a statement, hotel owner Ty Warner said: “Many of those working in New York City have to travel long distances to and from their homes after putting in 18-hour days. They need a place close to work where they can rest and regenerate."
Theme park fans might be surprised to learn that Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, England has been turned into a COVID-19 drive-through testing centre for NHS staff. The emergency facility is open to key workers and their families, and testing is carried out by nurses who take nose and mouth swabs, which are then tested within 72 hours.
Furniture giant IKEA has given away space at one of its stores in Wembley, England to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. The space is also being used as a drive-through testing centre for frontline NHS staff, which opened on 30 March. A spokesperson said, “We are incredibly proud that we are able to support the government and the NHS in this small way, and are working with them to identify any additional sites that could also support the national effort.”
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McDonald's may not be able to retool its production lines, but in Germany it has begun ‘leasing’ its employees to Aldi, which is struggling to cope with demand. In the unusual partnership, McDonald’s employees who are at home due to the closure of branches can take on temporary employment at Aldi if they wish, as well as being able to resume employment at McDonald’s when restaurants reopen. However, in the US 99% of McDonald's locations have remained open throughout the lockdown.
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