The Auto Race to Make Ventilators

The Auto Race to Make Ventilators

Should automakers be forced to make ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic?

President Trump recently ordered General Motors to make ventilators. This order came shortly after GM had already planned to start making ventilators and had required “top dollars” for doing so. Are automakers well positioned to produce ventilators? This article examines the challenges they face when building production capacity for specialized, medical devices.


Video Spotlight: Ford Planning to Produce Ventilators


This post is based on the CNN.com article, Automakers Are Racing to Make Ventilators. But It’s Not That Easy, by J. Wattles and P. Valdes-Dapena, March 27, 2020, and the YouTube video, Ford Motor CEO on Shifting Production from Cars to Ventilators, by CBS This Morning, March 24, 2020. Image source: Fuse/Getty Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. In the article, what are the obstacles to the immediate production of ventilators by non-medical manufacturers?

Guidance: According to the article, the obstacles include: intellectual property rights, lack of engineering and process expertise, lack of trained workers, and safety concerns. Other obstacles to consider are potential shortages of raw materials needed worldwide as well as the time and cost to repurpose factories and get new production Continue reading

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The Challenges of Making N95 Masks

The Challenges of Making N95 Masks

Why can’t we produce N95 masks fast enough?

As the US faces shortages of N95 masks, this article highlights the challenges of producing them. China, a country that has ramped up production for itself and for the world, has had to overcome major obstacles even with huge government subsidies and help from regulators. Problems ranging from material shortages to building machines threaten the conversion of existing capacity to mask manufacturing.


Video Spotlight: How China Can Produce 200 Million Masks a Day


This post is based on the npr.org article, COVID-19 Has Caused a Shortage of Face Masks. But They’re Surprisingly Hard to Make, by E. Feng and A. Cheng, March 16, 2020, and the YouTube video, Inside China’s Biggest Mask Factory, by Goldthread, March 19, 2020. Image source: ERProductions Ltd/Blend Images LLC.

Discussion Questions:

1. What problems do manufacturers face when they repurpose their facilities for the production of masks?

Guidance: Manufacturers have to overcome their lack of expertise in making new components, set up operations in sterile environments, buy used or new machines, purchase specialized materials in short supply or set up production lines for those materials, experience delivery delays, and train existing and new Continue reading

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Lines at Airports are Breeding Grounds for Infections

Lines at Airports are Breeding Grounds for Infections

The sudden return of US citizens and permanent residents created havoc at the major airports.

The coronavirus outbreak prompted the US government to urge its citizens sojourning in Europe to come back before travel restrictions came into effect. The ultimatum caused unusually large numbers of travelers to crowd airports that were unprepared and thus understaffed for this surge. As a result, travelers had to wait in long lines before medical screening and immigration, thereby breaking all rules of safe distancing during a pandemic.


Video Spotlight: Exasperatingly long wait lines at DFW


This post is based on the npr.org article, Travelers Greeted with Hours-Long Airport Lines as Coronavirus Screenings Begin, by B. Allyn, March 15, 2020, and the YouTube video, Travelers Frustrated after New Coronavirus Screening Procedure Causes Hours-Long Wait at DFW Airport, by WFAA, March 14, 2020. Image source: Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the factors that contributed to long lines?

Guidance: Wait lines are caused by insufficient capacity to meet demand as well as variability in arrivals and service. In this instance, the sudden surge in arrivals was unexpected and so was the additional time for medical screening. Longer and more Continue reading

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