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Ventilator challenge takes a breather

VentilatorChallengeUK, a consortium of manufacturers established to scale up the production of ventilators for the NHS, is winding down after delivering nearly 13,500 ventilator units.

In response to the anticipated escalation of COVID-19 cases in the UK, the group of nearly 30 aerospace, motorsport, automotive and medical firms came together in March to increase the production of ventilator systems. Together they have more than doubled the UK’s stock in less than four months.

During the project, seven dedicated manufacturing facilities were established from scratch at sites owned by Airbus, Ford, McLaren, RollsRoyce, and other key manufacturers across the country. 

The consortium also set up parallel supply chains and acquired around 42 million parts and components through a complex network that was designed by logistics firm DHL in less than two weeks. Despite global competition for parts and the challenges of lockdown, parts were sourced from over 22 different countries and production of ventilators exceeded 400 units a day at the project’s peak. 

The final shipment of finished ventilators was delivered on 5 July, with the consortium businesses now returning to regular production.

(Ventilator system testing. Credit: UK Cabinet Office)

Dick Elsy, CEO of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, a group of manufacturing research centres in the UK which led the challenge, commented:

“What VentilatorChallengeUK has achieved in the space of twelve weeks is nothing short of incredible, creating and producing an approved product and setting up production facilities on this scale would normally take years. I am immensely proud of the energy, determination and ingenuity shown by every business in responding to this national need.

“Together, we have helped ensure the NHS has always had access to the number of ventilators it needs, and we’re pleased to have also contributed to building a resilient stock should ventilators be required in the UK in the future. This coalition of the very best of this country’s people and capability across different sectors has truly showcased the strength of the manufacturing industry in the UK.

“While we have now delivered all the required ventilators to the NHS, the Consortium is looking to capture lessons learned and share them across the engineering community – and with government – as key tools to help UK industry get back on its feet after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.”

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