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Kokomo GM plant shifts to ventilator production

Under contract to federal government
General Motors and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to convert
Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 17:08:46-04

KOKOMO -- A General Motors plant in Kokomo is playing an important role in the government's efforts to get ventilators to the hospitals that need them.

GM announced Tuesday that mass production has begun of the Ventec Life Systems V+Pro critical care ventilator, under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ventec and GM began planning the project in mid-March as it became clear there would be an increased need for ventilators to treat the sickest COVID-19 patients.

“Thousands of men and women at GM, Ventec, our suppliers and the Kokomo community have rallied to support their neighbors and the medical professionals on the front lines of this pandemic,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Everyone wants to help turn the tide and save lives. It is inspiring and humbling to see the passion and commitment people have put into this work.”

The contract is worth $489 million and calls for GM to make 30,000 ventilators in the coming months for the National Strategic Stockpile.

Said White House Assistant to the President Peter Navarro: “GM has moved swiftly in Trump time to manufacture one of the most critical lifesaving devices in America’s war against the coronavirus. GM’s rapid mobilization of America’s manufacturing might in defense of our country is a proud salute to the ingenuity of its engineers, the true grit of its UAW workers on the line, and America’s doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals fighting for our lives at the front lines."

"As these lifesaving ventilators roll off GM’s assembly line as fast as tanks once did in an earlier World War, they will be rapidly deployed to the hospitals of Gary, Chicago, and far beyond." said Navarro.

“Until there is a vaccine, critical care ventilators give medical professionals the tools they need to fight this pandemic and save lives,” said Ventec Life Systems CEO Chris Kiple. “This partnership is an historic effort and a great reminder of what can be accomplished with the power of American innovation and American manufacturing skill uniting together around a singular mission to save lives.”

Preparing for production was no easy task. According to GM, the effort involved sourcing hundreds of parts and assemblies from suppliers; the design of a new manufacturing process; the transformation of GM’s Kokomo factory; the ongoing hiring of more than 1,000 manufacturing team members; and the implementation of extensive health and safety protocols in the workplace.

In a statement from GM, the automaker said more than 600 ventilators will be shipped this month, almost half the order will be filled by the end of June and the full order will be completed by the end of August. GM has the capacity to build more ventilators after August if needed.

The United Auto Workers, which represents union employees at the Kokomo facility, embraced the project and on
March 25, crews began preparing the Kokomo site for production.