Renishaw boosts production of ventilator components

Following an article printed in April’s edition of the Wotton Times, Renishaw have expounded on their pledge to begin mass-producing key components for medical ventilators.

The move comes as part of a nationwide effort to support the NHS in the fight against Covid-19. 

The company has dedicated a significant part of their manufacturing sites in Gloucestershire and South Wales to the production of precision-machined components for two different ventilators produced by the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, which was formed to coordinate greater production of ventilators across a variety of companies.

As with many other companies across the UK, Renishaw reacted to the UK government’s call to radically increase ventilator production to treat coronavirus patients suffering with respiratory complications, with production at its sites now running seven days a week.

Marc Saunders, Renishaw’s director of group strategic development, who is leading the company’s response, explained: “When the government called, we scrambled to respond, and immediately realised the daunting scale of the challenge.

“Ventilators are sophisticated medical devices and we felt that our capabilities would be best applied to helping scale up the production of designs with existing technologies.

“We soon realised that many other industrial companies were thinking the same way and that we would need our combined capacity and capabilities to achieve this enormous endeavour.”

Within a few days, Renishaw joined with leading companies in the aerospace, automotive, medical devices and motorsport sectors to form the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, under the leadership of Dick Elsy, CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

This diverse team is working non-stop to boost production of two proven ventilators, selected by the NHS and manufactured in the UK by Penlon and Smiths Medical.

As Dick Elsy explained: “Penlon and Smiths ordinarily have a combined capacity of between 50 and 60 ventilators per week. 

“However, thanks to the scale and resources of the wider consortium, we are targeting production of at least 1,500 units a week of the Penlon and Smiths models combined within a matter of weeks.

“Ventilators are intricate and highly complex pieces of medical equipment and it is vital that we balance the twin imperatives of speed of delivery with the absolute adherence to regulatory standards that is needed to ensure patient safety.” 

In this context, Renishaw’s manufacturing activities form part of a broad network of suppliers that the consortium is coordinating, many of whom, like Renishaw, are making ventilator components for the first time. 

The mass-production of ventilators, each of which contains hundreds of diverse components, requires millions of parts to come together for assembly; a huge logistical operation.

Gareth Hankins, Director of Group Manufacturing Services at Renishaw, said: “To prepare for the important work that we are undertaking, both for the ventilator project and our global customers in critical supply chains, we temporarily closed our UK manufacturing facilities last week to introduce additional measures to protect the welfare of our employees.”

These measures include the reorganisation of Renishaw’s factories to increase spacing between workers, as well as the introduction of zoning areas to restrict movement around sites.

Mr Hankins added: “Our staff have responded magnificently to this challenging situation and it is wonderful to see the factories back up and running and for us to be playing our part in the national Ventilator Challenge.”