Following last week’s announcement that Renishaw would be helping with a coordinated national effort in ventilator production, the Wotton Times spoke to Marc Saunders, Renishaw’s director of group strategic development.
“When the government called we all felt that we could help,” Mr Saunders said over the phone from his home office. “We were already starting to think about what we could do.
“We quickly realised the scale of the challenge and that this was more than any one company could take on. Renishaw has a lot of component manufacturing capability, so we thought we’d stick to what we do best and help in our own way.
“We were talking to other companies who we know well, who we work alongside, and found that they were thinking the same thing; that we needed to pool together our resources.
“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.”
Within a few days of the government’s call for engineering companies to assist in the manufacture of ventilators, Renishaw joined with leading companies from across the country to form the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium.
Companies in the consortium have now received formal orders from the Government in excess of 10,000 units.
“The concept of the consortium came together over the next few days,” Saunders continued. “In that first week the government was developing a response to the crisis and planning out what equipment would be required.
“There are lots of other companies and businesses in a similar position to ours who want to get involved and collaborate; around 300 companies across the country are contributing to this new supply chain.”
When asked about a timetable for getting ventilator parts together and out there, Mr Saunders said that production had already begun.
“We’ve been making parts for a few days now; these ventilators are quite complicated and they have hundreds of parts.
“Renishaw is making a selection of different parts – the idea is to have different companies in different areas of the country making the same parts, so if there’s an issue with the distribution network, then ventilator manufacturing can continue.
“Most of this has been organised online through web meetings, out of necessity due to restrictions to prevent contagion and the spread of Coronavirus.
“We have had to do it all remotely. It’s worked remarkably well, but it does take a lot of organisation and teamwork
“We have dedicated parts of our production line to this but we are also continuing to manufacture our other products, which are vital in global supply chains.”
Renishaw closed their sites across Gloucestershire and the South West for a few days to carry out essential works and alterations, to make factories safer for their workers.
Spacing between employees have been increased, zoning measures have been introduced to restrict movement around sites, and hygiene regimes have been enhanced to minimise the potential risk of the spread of infection.
Mr Saunders added: “Obviously there are certain aspects of our work that can’t be done remotely, you have to have people in the factories to operate the production lines.
“The challenges posed by the threat of coronavirus transmission have definitely forced us to change our approach to organisation; it will be interesting to see afterwards whether some of these changes are long-lasting, given how effective it’s been having people working remotely.”