Canada Auto Manufacturers Shifting Production to Make Medical Equipment

Canadian government enlists help of auto manufacturers amidst the coronavirus crisis.

Auto parts manufacturers Martinrea International and Linamar, along with General Motors Canada, are in talks with Ontario’s health minister to shift their production lines into producing face masks, ventilators and other medical equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot, approximately 300 ventilators have recently been acquired. However, as the healthcare system faces pressure to respond efficiently amid the rise of global cases, she has expressed the need to increase capacity.

Linamar has already begun diversifying its operations to produce medical equipment and “is actively investigating the feasibility of manufacturing ventilators working with a variety of partners,” according to their chief executive. On the other hand, General Motors is currently performing an internal study to evaluate the best method of contribution it can offer during the crisis. According to a GM spokesperson, this could potentially include “supporting the production of medical equipment.”

Canada’s largest auto parts manufacturer, Magna International, has expressed that it will not aid in the production of ventilators or masks. However, the company has stated its willingness to provide assistance should it be needed. The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association also has not clearly stated the type of contribution it will make during the crisis but has expressed its eagerness and capability to be of assistance.

“There are a lot of skills in our industry and a lot of willingness to help,” said Flavio Volpe association president. “We can make most of these things here, and where we can help, we absolutely will.”

So far, 16 Canadian autoparts makers have confirmed they will build medical equipment. However, intellectual property laws have forced an absence of engineering specifications and product information, posing a challenge to manufacturers. The federal government is still in talks to allow auto manufacturers license to produce the equipment, which will include a purchasing commitment from the Canadian government.

Production of face masks in Shanghai, China. (Image courtesy of Aly Song, Reuters.)

Production of face masks in Shanghai, China. (Image courtesy of Aly Song, Reuters.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a global shortage of facial masks and other significant medical equipment due to the strain on the global supply chain. They have estimated a monthly requirement of 89 million masks. This means a 40 percent increase in production is needed to effectively meet demand. With numerous face mask manufacturing countries—such as Taiwan, India, Thailand and South Korea—banning export, governments are now forced to figure out how to meet demands.

For similar news, check out how manufacturing can help amidst the shortage of ventilators here.