GM Steps Up Mask Production At Warren Plant; Will Teach Others How To Do It

WWJ News
April 09, 2020 - 10:43 am

WARREN (WWJ) - Health care workers need masks now, and General Motors is providing.

GM announced Thursday that it will be increasing production of facemasks at the automaker's shuttered Warren Transmission Plant in Warren, Michigan. 

GM manufacturing masks
Workers begin final preparation for manufacturing Level 1 face masks Wednesday, April 1, 2019 at the General Motors facility in Warren, Michigan. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)
Spokesman Monte Doran says the automaker had set an initial goal of getting 20,000 masks to hospitals by yesterday.

"They actually beat that number by twice!" Doran told WWJ Autobeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert. "They have already delivered 50,000 masks to hospitals throughout the metro Detroit area."

"The other thing that's really been amazing is we've been overwhelmed by requests for masks," he said.

With that in mind, GM is adding a second line at the Warren facility to make more surgical masks, and a third line to make masks that are similar to the more protective N-95 masks.  ​

According to GM, the Warren plant can now produce up to 1.5 million facemasks a month. Over the coming weekend, the site will add two additional production lines: a second line for face masks and a new line for filtering facepiece respirators.

For U.S. production, the company partnered with existing automotive suppliers to provide the materials and equipment necessary for mask production.

In addition, the company says it has shared its manufacturing plans with GM suppliers along with the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) and the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) to help other manufacturers ramp up their own production efforts.

“Our ultimate goal is to get more masks to the people who desperately need them,” said Shilpan Amin, vice president, GM Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, in a release.“And we recognize it would be counterproductive for GM – or any other manufacturer – to compete for supplies with existing medical-mask companies. By making GM’s production processes available to the OESA and the MMA, we hope to facilitate other companies’ efforts to bring more materials, more equipment, and ultimately more facemasks to the community.”

“The Michigan Manufacturers Association has 1,700 companies across all industries, and many are looking for ways to help during this crisis,” said John Walsh, President and CEO, Michigan Manufacturers Association. “GM’s production plans and their willingness to share design specifications will be extremely appreciated as our members accelerate their own efforts to help during this crisis. GM’s efforts are a strong symbol of how manufacturing is driving solutions to solve this crisis.”

“The 500+ members of OESA are honored to lend their manufacturing expertise in this initiative,” said Julie A. Fream, President and CEO, OESA. “For automotive suppliers, this is an excellent opportunity to champion the efforts of our healthcare workers and provide much needed PPE to help fight the global coronavirus pandemic.”

In response to COVID-19 crisis around the world, GM is currently producing face masks in China through a joint venture with SAIC-GM-Wuling and Warren. Studies are underway to launch similar initiatives in other countries.

JR Automation in Holland, Michigan and Esys Automation in Auburn Hills typically provide GM with automotive-manufacturing equipment. For GM’s face-mask production, both companies’ custom-designed and built a mask maker that automatically folds, welds, and cuts face masks.

GDC in Goshen, Indiana provides GM with sound-deadening insulation found in vehicle doors, headliners and trunks. To transition to making materials for GM’s face mask production, GDC enlisted the help of OXCO in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Both companies’ employees worked around the clock and over weekends to alter their production processes for the manufacturing of three layers of fabric used to manufacture masks.

To learn more about how GM is producing masks in Warren, and General Motors’ other efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, visit this link