Face masks have become a hot commodity during the coronavirus crisis, and General Motors is doing what it can to help increase supply by producing millions of new masks in one of its previously closed Michigan plants.
GM face masks are being crafted in the Warren Transmission plant, which has been closed since July 2019. The automaker plans to have its first 20,000 masks ready to ship on Wednesday, April 8.
GM Face Mask Production
General Motors Co. has been working with the United Auto Workers union to put together a team of over two dozen paid volunteers that will manufacture the GM face masks.
“We have been working around the clock with our UAW and supplier partners to make this possible, and I’m so proud to stand with other companies and our skilled employees to fight this crisis together,” CEO Mary Barra said in a Tuesday blog post.
Once production is fully underway, GM aims to create 50,000 masks a day. That’s 1.5 million per month, which is great considering how in-demand they are.
The items being produced by GM are what’s called Level 1 masks, so they won’t be eligible for use in surgery, but they can be worn by others who are important to the infrastructure of hospitals and other medical facilities (delivery people, clerks, etc.).
Monte Doran, GM communications manager, said the company is looking to create higher-grade masks, too.
“We are exploring how to produce N95 masks, the highest level filtration mask produced. We just aren’t there yet,” Doran said in an interview for the Detroit Free Press. “The team felt the Level 1 masks are something we could immediately get into production and start producing as fast as possible.”
GM isn’t just creating face masks, either. It is also working with medical supply producer Ventec to manufacture ventilators for hospitals treating coronavirus patients across the country. The Associated Press reports that GM is planning to up production to 10,000 ventilators per month by mid-April.
GM’s focus on developing and manufacturing face masks and ventilators has been praised by some, including Kaitlin Wowak, an industrial supply chain professor at the University of Notre Dame.
“That is lightning-fast speed to secure suppliers, learn how the products work, and make space in their manufacturing plant,” Wowak told the AP.
The production of GM face masks and ventilators will most likely not have any impact on its (NYSE: GM) stock price, which was trading down around 8% at 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon after reporting new vehicle deliveries sank 7% in the first quarter compared to one year ago.