Auto parts makers have been in discussions with the Ontario government to switch gears to medical equipment

March 23, 2020, Canadian Manufacturing

TORONTO — The Ontario government is mobilizing the province’s manufacturing sector to provide equipment and products needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and treat its victims.

The Ontario Together website has been launched to bring together businesses and the province, remove barriers, identify supply challenges and redeploy manufacturing capacity to produce items such as ventilators and masks.

Manufacturers and other businesses can submit proposals for the government to procure required goods and services and share solutions quickly. Businesses will be asked what they have, what kind of innovation they can offer and any ideas they may have.

Canada’s automotive sector is already moving in that direction. Auto parts makers Martinrea International Inc., Linamar Corp. and General Motors of Canada have been in discussions with the Ontario government, according to a March 19 Financial Post article. Linamar is reported to be already diversifying to make ventilators.

“There are a lot of skills in our industry and a lot of willingness to help. We can make a lot of these things here, and where we can help, we absolutely will,” Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) said in the article.

Also, Labatt Breweries of Canada is mobilizing its Canadian Disaster Relief Program. The brewer is in the process of shifting production from beer to hand sanitizer across the country in support of the national effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Similar efforts are underway in the US, and an Associated Press article from March 21 noted the automotive sector is looking at switching gears to make ventilators and distilleries making hand sanitizer.

But a supply chain expert at the University of Notre Dame warned a “substantial pivot” will be needed for plants to churn out items that are substantially different from the regular production. “When you are repurposing a factory, it really depends on how similar the new product is to the existing products in your product line,” said Kaitlin Wowak, a professor at the university located outside South Bend, Ind.

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