Ventilator Challenge UK: Collaboration meets COVID-19

Ventilator Challenge UK: Collaboration meets COVID-19
Published: 9 April 2020

Following the uncertainties that Brexit presented, the outbreak of COVID-19 has created different challenges for the UK’s manufacturing sector. We have seen compromised supply chains and plant closures in some sectors, and increased supply requirements with reduced labour capability in others. In this extraordinary situation, there are some exceptional collaborations being designed to provide critical support where it is most required. Smiths Medical have created ‘Ventilator Challenge UK’; a consortium of large UK manufacturers that will increase the production of ventilators – a key requirement for UK hospitals currently. 

Rolls Royce, Dyson, McLaren, Airbus, F1 teams and others have collaborated with Smiths on this venture. Not only will they look at increasing the production of ventilators, they are also working on designs that will use components already in production. With factories decreasing output or ceasing operations completely, this will be no mean feat – especially as time is of the essence.  Companies within the consortium had secured an order for 15,000 ventilators – the government has now instructed a reservation order of a further 8,000.  With these manufacturers offering their engineering knowledge and their facilities, quick production of the ventilators is a given, and ventilators are now moving into hospitals.

These companies are setting an excellent example of collaboration at a large scale, setting a precedent for what can be achieved in the future. Industry 4.0 is in full flow so it would be hugely beneficial to the sector see more manufacturers working together like this in the future - developing new technologies together to aid the creation of new products and improve manufacturing efficiency. 

Artificial Intelligence is also something that manufacturers are keen to embrace, however a number are still working on how they can incorporate this into their ways of working. Collaborating with manufacturers who are already using A.I would allow sharing of best practice, ideas, knowledge and how to adapt to new and developing technologies.

Collaboration is a term that is often mentioned within businesses but responses to the global pandemic could really demonstrate the positive benefits of this way of working for organisations and their leaders.  Leaders within the manufacturers involved in Ventilator Challenge UK have adapted to new ways of working and put their competition with each other aside.  While competition is important in business, this situation has shown how leaders can come together and create something for the greater good.  When times are tough, the human spirit prevails and can provide a blueprint for the betterment of the industry as a whole.  Hopefully, other manufacturers will follow Ventilator Challenge UK’s example when this crisis has passed. We hope for a speedy solution and wish everyone well in these challenging times.   

For more information, please contact Catherine Osman, a Senior Researcher in the Manufacturing and Engineering Practice at Berwick Partners.   

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