I am so delighted and humbled that the Siemens response to the Ventilator Challenge UK has been nominated as a #Best60 for the #WvS (Werner von Siemens) Awards 2020. It really is an awesome story of overcoming the insurmountable and achieving the impossible through great collaboration and 100 per cent Siemens values. A true reflection of why #SiemensMatters to society and why we are #ProudtobeSiemens.
Answering the call of the NHS
I run our Digital Industries factory
employing 450 people in Cheshire in the North of England where we manufacture Drives
for export. Our products control the speed of motors in industry and reduce the
energy they consume, making manufacturing and infrastructure more sustainable.
As the Covid19 pandemic took hold of
countries around Europe including the UK the government realised the National Health
Service (NHS) urgently needed an estimated 30,000 ventilators to help save
lives. Local ventilator manufacturers were small, niche players with very
limited production capability based on traditional methods and expertise.
Siemens and Siemens Healthineers answered
the call for help and played a central role in the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium
which was tasked by the UK government to rapidly scale up the production of
ventilators in the UK.
A chance to really make a difference
I immediately got to work mobilising a team of engineers from my factory to help. Our team included apprentices as well as highly experienced designers and engineers. There were no egos – we all pulled together to achieve a clear common goal. I knew our digital processes, ability to design a digital twin and the tools we use every day could massively speed up the consortium’s ability to get the production design right and keep costs down and efficiency high.
I knew that Airbus had a suitable location near where I live in Wales – they were 10 days away from starting work at the AMRC Wales on the ‘Wing of Tomorrow’ project – but in the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown there was an opportunity to intervene. The site was perfect for a new factory, built from nothing with digital tools. I introduced Airbus into the consortium, and they agreed they had the capacity to use the space and their people who were otherwise not working could help build ventilators for the NHS.
Digitalisation was key
Conventional wisdom among the group of UK manufacturers in the consortium lead the team to an inefficient design and Siemens took the initiative to demonstrate a digital design to prove it was possible to meet the tough MHRA regulatory requirements, introduce social distancing and optimise the design significantly which reduced manpower requirements and space needed by more than 60%. This was critical and changed the direction and outcome of the project, resulting in the space to fit a second sub-assembly into the location – reducing risks and costs further. In total, 16 new lines were installed for the ventilator absorber and flow meter assemblies with a capacity in excess of 1500 units each a week, up from 10 per week at original manufacturer, Penlon.
Digitalisation from design to delivery proved key. Leadership from our overall project lead Ali Burns from Siemens Healthineers and our UK executive team was needed to inspire the 100 strong Siemens team to overcome the massive task ahead of us. In addition to the design and build of the production lines, there were many complex problems to solve and my team in Congleton and the Siemens Energy team in Lincoln worked tirelessly and with huge commitment in the manufacture of key fixtures and aids with rapid turnaround times based on digital models. In parallel to the factory design and build, we trained an army of 550 Airbus operatives who had never seen a ventilator nor built one, giving them accurate, easy-to-use visual aids for assembly to ensure quality. The result: just 21 days after the first call for help from the UK government, completed ventilators were delivered to Penlon for testing.
Our Siemens and Siemens Healthineers colleagues worked long hours to massively ramp up production of a highly regulated medical device in record time which, without a doubt saved lives and supported the NHS in a time of crisis. Our team was totally inspirational and true ambassadors for the Siemens brand.
If you are a Siemens employee, please head to Yammer and use the hashtag #WvS20 and like and share our incredible story.