(April 2020) The GM plant in Kokomo converts from autos to ventilator production. (photo courtesy: GM)
(April 2020) GM workers get trained to assemble ventilators at the plant in Kokomo (photo courtesy: GM)
Debbie Hollis of Kokomo is learning to build ventilators at the GM plant in Kokomo. (photo courtesy: GM)
Intensive training and deep cleaning are underway at the GM Co. (NYSE: GM) manufacturing plant in Kokomo where the automaker and Washington-based Ventec Life Systems will start producing ventilators for critically-care patients.
The companies say they intend to begin mass production in less than two weeks, eventually scaling up production to 10,000 units per month.
GM says the workforce will grow to more than 1,000 people, including workers already employed by the manufacturer. Early hires have been gaining hands-on exposure to the medical equipment.
“I’m grateful that I get a chance to do my part and be a part of something…we are modern-day Rosie the Riveters,” said Debbie Hollis of Kokomo, as a salute to women who took up manufacturing jobs during WWII.
When the first ventilator rolls off the line in mid-April, it’ll have been less than a month from when the plan was first put into motion, according to GM.
“People have moved mountains to help increase production of Ventec’s critical care ventilator and we are just weeks away from delivering these lifesaving devices,” said Gerald Johnson, GM executive vice president, Global Manufacturing. ”I have never seen anything like it in my career.”
The manufacturers have established protocols to keep the workers safe, even before they reach their workstations in the plant. For example, each worker will have their temperature checked before entering the job site. They will wear medical-grade protective masks.
Each workstation will be staffed by one person, with the stations six feet apart from each other. They’ve instituted a 30-minute period between shifts to allow employees to clean their stations when they arrive and before they leave.
Crews will clean and sanitize common touch surfaces, such as door handles, three times per shift.
At each shift change, crews will enter and exit through a different door to maintain social distancing.
“Our members responded to the call for help,” said Greg Wohlford, UAW Local 292 shop chairperson. “We have pledged, along with GM, to do everything we can to make sure that we keep these everyday heroes safe from illness and injury.”