We entered the GM factory to make face masks for coronaviruses. This is what it looked like

0
56


Employees of General Motors at its production of face masks at a factory in Warren, Michigan, work on a machine at the start of the process which, by ultrasound, welds three layers of material into one, crimps the front of the masks and inserts the metallic line or wire nose, in the mask.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

WARREN, Michigan – There is a loud buzz and soft metal stamping noises when you enter a bright white area of ​​a decades-old General Motors transmission plant just outside Detroit.

But the sounds, almost white noise, do not come from produced auto parts, they are large spools of fabric which pass through machines and employees who use laser welders to make medical masks.

In less than a week, GM converted 31,000 square feet of the 2.7 million square foot plant, which was decommissioned last year, from the production of transmissions to personal protective equipment for first responders and healthcare workers on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. .

“I never thought I would be a mask maker but there are a lot of things we do that we never thought we would do,” said Robert Portugaise, GM chief production engineer, in the middle on Thursday. of the operations. “We continue to work and try to make improvements. “

GM initially aimed to manufacture 20,000 masks in the first days of production, which began on April 6. He quickly doubled that number and, as of Wednesday, had produced more than 620,000 masks. A second shift was also added this week to assist in the production of masks, including some for GM employees in preparation for the reopening of automotive production.

General Motors begins producing N95 masks at a former transmission plant outside of Detroit. The head of the manikin is used to test the fit of the masks before production for the start of distribution.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

Engineers were also preparing a new production line on Thursday afternoon to begin manufacturing the essential N95 masks, which have yet to be tested and certified.

“There are quite a few things. The N95 masks are a little more complicated, “said the Portuguese, adding that there was more welding, layers of fabric and a folding process that had to be done. “We are still in the debugging phase. “

Once fully operational, the machine should be able to produce 12,000 masks per day, according to the Portuguese, whose day job is executive director of propulsion systems manufacturing engineering at GM.

“They are inspired”

Making medical level 1 face masks is not as simple as it sounds. It’s particularly difficult to do in a week, which the manufacturer did. More than 30 engineers, designers, buyers and members of the manufacturing team were invited to assist in product development, the procurement of materials and equipment, and the planning of the production process.

In less than a week, GM converted 31,000 square feet of the 2.7 million square foot plant, which was decommissioned last year, from production of mask transmissions to first responders and workers from health at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

Materials required included metal nose pieces, elastic straps, and blown nonwoven fabric filter material. At the same time, GM collaborated with Michigan companies, JR Automation and Esys Automation, to design and build the custom machines needed to assemble the masks.

For the project, the team also built a clean room equivalent to ISO class 8 in the factory. The team cleared the area and the teams then installed new electrical service lines to supply production equipment and assembly stations, according to GM.

“The team there, they are inspired by the way they design and how they engage with the work teams there to increase production, increase, increase and install”, Gerald Johnson, GM The vice president of global manufacturing said in an interview with the factory Thursday afternoon.

Gerald Johnson (middle), Executive Vice President of General Motors, Manufacturing and Labor Relations, observes the engineers and technicians configure and test the machines that will be used to make the level 1 face masks at a factory in Warren, au Michigan.

Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors

Mask production is carried out by paid volunteers, including hourly workers with the United Auto Workers union as well as employees, in two 10-hour shifts per day.

Part of the process uses reused materials and machines that the automaker uses in automotive production, including equipment from an insulation supplier, a feeding and cutting machine, and scanners used to control the quality.

Make the masks

The process of producing the facial mask begins with the thin material on large coils fed into a machine that welds three layers of the product into one; sets the front of the masks; and inserts its metallic line or nose thread. The machine then cuts the fabric and spits out the masks faster than an ATM.

Face masks are cut by a machine and spit out faster than an ATM. The ultrasound machine welds three layers of the material into one, crimps the front of the masks and inserts the metal line, or nose, into the mask.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

A worker at the end of the line performs a quick product check, followed by a more thorough inspection at another workstation. At full speed, the machine can produce 40,000 per shift, according to the Portuguese.

From there, the masks are lined with small plastic tubs and workers laser weld the earrings on the masks, which is one of the most laborious parts of the process.

Currently, employees have to weld the four corners individually by pressing a pedal, much like a sewing machine works, on the floor. An indicator light indicates when each weld is complete. Soon, the company hopes to be able to perform two welds at a time with new machines still under test.

One of the hardest parts of the process is a GM worker laser welding the earrings on the face masks.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

To encourage employees to work quickly, each person receives a metal cog for 100 full face masks during a shift. Portuguese said double welding machines are expected to significantly increase welding production. Some workers can produce up to 300 masks in an hour, he said.

There is another quality control for each batch of 100 masks, which are then stored in boxes or sterilization rooms. Two of the sterilization units were donated by the Philadelphia Flyers and an equipment manager for the Detroit Red Wings. The machines are generally used to sterilize equipment in hockey.

Once sterilized, 10 masks are placed in a bagging machine which also puts instructions and precautions with the GM logo on the bags for shipping.

Once the masks are sterilized, they are placed in groups of 10 in a bagging machine which also puts instructions, precautions and the GM logo on the shipping bags.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

One of the efforts GM committed to during the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down manufacturing in the United States since mid-March, is the production of face masks.

GM manufactures other personal protective equipment, including latex-free face shields, protective gowns and aerosol cans. It also produces intensive care ventilators in partnership with Washington-based Ventec Life Systems at a factory in Kokomo, Indiana.

The automaker plans to produce around 600 fans by the end of this week, according to Johnson of GM. He said the company was on the verge of delivering 30,000 fans for the national stock by the end of August.

“There is a mixed emotion. Obviously, no one is happy with the Covid-19 virus and many lives are affected and concerned about the health and well-being of all, “said Johnson. “Likewise, I’m extremely proud of what I see as the teams come together here in incredible time… It’s inspiring. “

In less than a week, GM converted 31,000 square feet of the 2.7 million square foot plant, which was decommissioned last year, from production of mask transmissions to first responders and workers from health at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here