UK ventilator challenge ends after making over 13,000 devices

VentilatorChallengeUK, the manufacturing consortium established to address an anticipated shortage of ventilators for treating COVID-19 patients, has made its final shipment of finished ventilators.

ventilator challenge
Ventilator production line at Ford Dagenham

Formed on 19 March in response to the anticipated escalation in COVID-19 cases, the consortium of UK aerospace, motorsport, automotive and medical businesses has more than doubled the UK’s stock of ventilators by scaling up the production of an existing system – Smiths Group’s portable paraPac ventilator – and a ventilator adapted from anaesthesia equipment produced by Oxfordshire firm Penlon.

During the project, which was led by High Value Manufacturing Catapult chief executive Dick Elsy, seven new large-scale manufacturing facilities were established from scratch at Airbus AMRC Cymru in Broughton, Ford in Dagenham, GKN Aerospace in Luton and Cowes, McLaren in Woking, RollsRoyce in Filton and STI in Hook.

The  consortium also set- up new parallel supply chains and acquired around 42 million parts and electronic components through a complex logistics network that saw DHL design and implement an end-to-end supply chain in only 1.5 weeks

Despite global competition for parts and lockdown challenges during the pandemic the team sourced parts from over 22 countries, with the furthest distance travelled by a single part being 5,226 miles. Ventilator peak production exceeded 400 devices a day, with the shortest time taken to achieve 1000 ventilators being three days

“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,” commented Elsy. “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.”

He added that the consortium is now 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.