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In mid-March as the coronavirus was spreading across America and states were sending all but essential workers home, Ford CEO Jim Hackett shuttered the company’s 30 North American auto plants. On the phone with White House staff to talk about the impact of the pandemic on the industry, Hackett blurted out: “Who knows, maybe we should be making ventilators?”

Five days later, the company had a plan to do just that. Ford and GE Healthcare quickly agreed to try and crank up production of a simpler version of GE’s full-featured machines to help hospitals and states that were preparing for a deluge of COVID-19 patients. They then brought on a small Florida manufacturer called Airon, whose own simplified ventilator would be cheaper, easier and faster to produce in massive quantities.

He’s not alone. Across the country, American manufacturers–including Ford, General Motors and Xerox–whose factories in normal times are humming along with more prosaic products, are racing to churn out new ventilators by the tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands, as fast as they possibly can. In fact, it’s the largest combined effort by American manufacturers outside of wartime to do in weeks what would normally take medical device makers months or even years to produce.

Read the full profile on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyfeldman/2020/04/08/how-old-school-manufacturers-learned-to-make-ventilators—virtually-overnight/#4aa5f18f5063

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