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4 minute read

Sharing in Growth and aerospace supply chain support fight against Covid-19

Productivity and competitiveness experts from Sharing in Growth and its beneficiary community are helping the UK fight against Covid-19.

Sharing in Growth (SiG), who normally support aerospace and advanced manufacturing suppliers to increase their capability and ability to win more business, is now working with the VentilatorChallengeUK (VCUK) consortium which has formal orders from the government for in excess of 10,000 ventilator units so far.

SiG has been helping the VCUK consortium with identifying capability and capacity within the SiG beneficiaries to support the manufacture of small mill turn components for the ventilators. So far, seven SiG beneficiaries have been selected. They are Excel, Hyde, Martin Aerospace, Nasmyth Bulwell, NEMCO, Produmax and SL Engineering. In many cases, the companies have had the capability to turn agreed drawings into parts that pass inspection in a matter of hours.

SiG is now working with the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium which has formal orders for in excess of 10,000 ventilator units / Picture: SiG/SL Engineering


Sharing in Growth’s chief executive, Andy Page, said: “The SIG community comprises many highly capable manufacturing companies that have risen to the challenge. They have made parts within hours of receiving drawings and supported each other with material and/or sub tier components when necessary. It is humbling to see what can be done with focus and determination and I am delighted we could use our knowledge of their capability to get them involved quickly.”

The consortium is producing two types of ventilators. The Penlon Prima ESO2 device, which has been undergoing stringent testing and clinical trials for the last two weeks, has now been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Production ramp up will now accelerate at the Penlon site in Oxfordshire and at the new VCUK production lines built in Broughton, Dagenham, Woking and Maidenhead. Having already commenced deliveries of the Smiths Group’s paraPAC plus devices, VCUK is working closely with supply chain partners to rapidly scale up production to achieve at least 1,500 units a week of the combined Penlon and Smiths models.

Seven SiG beneficiaries have been selected so far and have begun making components / Picture: SiG/Produmax


Dick Elsy chief executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Chair of the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, added: “To provide some context, Penlon and Smiths ordinarily have combined capacity for 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. I want to take this opportunity to again thank every member of the consortium and the hundreds of dedicated colleagues who have been working day and night to get us to this point.”

SL Engineering, based near Grantham, volunteered for the challenge which meant assessing, quoting, procuring material and tooling, and setting up 24/7 working shifts all under the challenges of current Covid-19 restrictions. The team then managed to complete full New Product Introduction processes, manufacture and deliver the components within a calendar week from receipt of authority to proceed.

SL Engineering joint managing director, Shaun Stevenson, said: “It has been a fantastic team effort to make this happen, with parts ready for despatch including completed subcontract operations and customer approved first article sign off, all achieved in less than one week from receipt of order authorisation! Great effort and great result from Team SL for doing our bit to provide these critical ventilator components to the front line in support of our brilliant NHS.”

For their part, award-winning beneficiary Produmax has implemented split shifts around the clock to produce vital parts at speed from its Baildon site in West Yorkshire. The company will have switched to making ventilator parts on its lathes over the next few weeks, to produce over 60,000 brass, steel and plastic components for the air flow control units of Penlon and Smiths Medical ventilators.

In addition, beneficiaries, such as Amphenol Invotec and Amfax are also supporting other ventilator consortia with components such as PCBs and PCB test equipment. While others, like the Oxley Group have designed and manufactured or repurposed personal protective equipment for the NHS front line, or have increased production in vital areas. These include Gentex, whose products include emergency service respirators, and surface treatment specialists Poeton Industries, whose customers manufacture medical ventilators required for the NHS.

Gentex’s Stranraer plant manufactures the Pureflo 3000 innovative powered air purifying respirator which provides an all-in-one respiratory, head, face, eye and hearing protection. With demand soaring for high-end medical use, Gentex used SiG’s lighthouse cell improvement concept to more than double production on their current assembly line. They then created two more lines, with plenty of space for staff to work at safe distances; mobilised some 60 suppliers to provide 200 parts and raw materials; used their engineering expertise to build new rigs; and trained staff for additional shifts. As a result, they aim to increase production to 750 Pureflo respirators a week – in total more than a seven-fold production rate increase.

The members of VentilatorChallengeUK consortium include Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford, GKN, Inspiration Healthcare, Meggitt, Renishaw, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Thales, Ultra Electronics, Unilever, Formula 1 teams: Haas F1, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, Racing Point, Renault and Williams. The project is also being supported by Accenture, Arrow Electronics, Dell Technologies, Microsoft and PTC.

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