Demand for face masks, particularly N95 respirator masks, dramatically increased as medical professionals and the general population took to protecting themselves from COVID-19. The ATS team was engaged by a familiar customer, but one with a very unique challenge–increase production capacity with new equipment but in a fraction of the typical delivery time.
General Motors (GM) launched a rapid response project to produce medical masks at scale to help protect essential services workers. GM had drawings of the mask they wished to produce and only a little more than photographs of existing production equipment. GM’s target was to have production capacity in less than 3 weeks’ time for 11,000 masks per day and to scale up to at least a production level of 50,000 masks daily. Typically, the time period for design, development and deployment for a non-standard machine is many months to a year.
GM has a strong relationship with ATS Automation and realized that ATS’s automation and life sciences segment experience would be a strong match for this unique challenge. ATS quickly aligned internal resources in sourcing, engineering, and manufacturing. The team rapidly conceptualized a manufacturing line and then began to work with materials from ATS’s component inventory. The team also engaged with key supply chain partners to see what was immediately available to help bring the concept to fruition. The system used as many standard components as possible and was practically being built as it was designed.