How Automakers Are Saving Lives With Smart Partnerships

Aswin Mannepalli

In previous blogs, we talked about how automakers can protect their employees and financially guard their companies. Today, we talk about how they can go on to contribute to the fight. How can automakers apply the depth of their manufacturing knowledge to make things that save lives?

Making something other than cars at a moment of national crisis is nothing new to the automotive industry. In times of war, many wondered if automobile companies could build fighter planes. They did.

Today, the needs are different but similar questions persist. Are the big automakers nimble enough to make lifesaving equipment? Since people’s lives are at stake, many car companies have wisely chosen to form partnerships with firms with deep medical expertise. 

Lamborghini’s race to save lives

Personal protective equipment (PPE) protects individuals from the highly contagious coronavirus. Medical professionals – the very people that safeguard us at our most vulnerable – are in dire need of PPE. Given supply chain fractures, normally plentiful equipment such as face masks, shields, gowns, and gloves are in short supply.

Lamborghini, the maker of some of the most iconic automobiles in the world, is putting its workforce to make such vital equipment. Given the urgent need, the company has been very effective at finding skills that can readily transfer to their new products. For example, the people who stitch the interiors of their supercars are now tasked with stitching masks. The company claims it can make 1,000 in a day.

Face shields are particularly useful in preventing infection through the soft membranes in the eye. Lamborghini’s R&D teams are using 3D printing technology to manufacture up to 200 such shields per day.

Crucially, the company is not going at the challenge alone. After all, it has little previous background in testing and quality control of PPE. Towards this end, it has partnered with the University of Bologna. Medical experts from the school will help Lamborghini ensure that the PPE is of sufficiently high grade to protect medical staff.

Making ventilators

Devices that can breathe for patients are essential at times like this. To make them portable and reliable is no small feat.

GM, for example, is taking on this challenging task. Instead of doing everything by itself, the carmaker is partnering with Ventec to make a portable ventilator (V+Pro) that can be produced with fewer parts, thereby accelerating their rollout. Moreover, GM has chosen to make these devices at its Kokomo, Indiana, plant because it will require minimal retooling.

Regulatory hurdles

The healthcare industry is perhaps one of the few sectors of the economy that is more regulated and scrutinized than the automotive sector. Maintaining compliance with laws and guidelines across the organization as automakers make ventilators is a monumental challenge.

Medical expertise is essential, as is legal guidance. Be it working with a medical university that can help test the PPE or using regulator-approved designs, such partnerships accelerate the time it takes for automakers to contribute to the effort against the present crisis.

Do you have other stories of automakers helping in the fight? Let me know! Reach out to me on Twitter @mannepalliAswin.

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Aswin Mannepalli

About Aswin Mannepalli

Aswin Mannepalli leads global industry marketing efforts at SAP with an emphasis on the automotive and industrial manufacturing sectors. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and lectures at the Wharton School. In his spare time, he enjoys learning Mandarin Chinese and swimming.