JCB closed all of its UK factories as a result of the coronavirus crisis but now one of them in Uttoxeter is re-opening to join the national effort to manufacture ventilators.
The digger maker was one of a host of manufacturers and engineering companies asked by the prime minister earlier this month to help plug the national ventilator shortage. Following the approach, JCB chairman Lord Bamford mobilised a research and engineering team to examine potential ways to assist.
Now JCB is ready to restart production at a factory that has been closed for nearly two weeks as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. But instead of making cabs for JCB machines, the plant is being mobilised to make special steel housings for a new design of ventilator from Dyson, the bagless vacuum cleaner company.
The ventilators are needed to help Covid-19 patients to breathe after their lungs start to fail.
A minimum of 10,000 of the JCB housings are earmarked for manufacture once Dyson receives regulatory approval for its design. The first prototypes of the housings have been delivered to Dyson after rolling off the production line at JCB’s £50m Cab Systems factory in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. The factory fell silent on March 18th along with eight other JCB UK manufacturing plants after a fall in demand caused by the Coronavirus crisis. Mass production of the housings could start this week, JCB said.
Lord Bamford said: “When we were approached by the prime minister we were determined, as a British company, to help in any way we could. This project has gone from design to production in just a matter of days and I am delighted that we have been to deploy the skills of our talented engineering, design and fabrication teams so quickly at a time of national crisis. This is also a global crisis, of course, and we will naturally help with the production of more housings if these ventilators are eventually required by other countries.”
JCB’s response to the national call to action would see the return to work for around 50 employees affected by an extended company shutdown announced last week. JCB suspended production at its nine UK production plants until at least the end of April as a result of the Coronavirus crisis and furloughed the vast majority of its 6,500 workforce. The company is paying them 80% of their basic pay for the next month, regardless of what they earn. Employees returning to work to help manufacture the ventilator housings will be paid 100% of their normal pay.