How good is this? They manufacture cars not trucks so FleetWatch, being a trucking magazine, is generally not that concerned with the activities of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA). However, the latest venture embarked upon by this company has really caught our attention. Check this out….
In the face of a world-wide shortage of protective face shields to prevent the spread of coronavirus, FMCSA has begun production of 57 000 protective face shields that will be donated to front-line medical and essential services personnel who are most at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus that has spread worldwide.
Ford has also approached its suppliers and business partners to ramp up production to a minimum of 500 000 units to meet the growing demand for these shields. The general public and businesses across South Africa have also been invited to contribute to the project which aims to address the critical shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) during this global health crisis.
The face shields, which protect the user’s eyes, nose and mouth from the coronavirus which is easily spread through coughing and sneezing, are being produced at Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria by employees who volunteered to make a difference during this global pandemic. This South African initiative complements the humanitarian efforts of Ford Motor Company in the US to produce face shields and partnering with GE Healthcare to manufacture ventilators at its Michigan plants.
“The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and is having a dramatic impact on the health of communities around the world while placing a massive strain on the medical resources of even the most advanced countries,” says Ockert Berry, VP Operations at FMCSA.
This action follows an announcement made by Ford Motor Company on March 23rd that in response to the growing impact of the coronavirus, it would be temporarily suspending vehicle and engine production at the manufacturing sites of its International Markets Group (IMG). The countries affected were India, Vietnam, Thailand and South Africa, with the last working day for the South African plant falling on March 27th – the first day of the lockdown.
In making the announcement at the time, Mark Ovenden, president, International Markets Group, said: “The health and safety of our employees, dealers, customers, partners and communities is our highest priority. We are continuing to act in real time and taking added safety measures by temporarily halting production at our manufacturing sites in the international markets.”
Explaining the rationale behind this new venture by FMCSA, Berry said that with South Africa on lockdown and the plants not operating at the moment, “we felt it was essential for us to use our manufacturing capacity and expertise to contribute to the efforts of the South African government, private healthcare institutions and humanitarian organisations to contain the spread of COVID-19 – and to care for those infected with the virus.”
Crucial part of PPE
World Health Organization and the South African Department of Health have deemed these face shields, along with the N95 face masks which can be worn under the shield, a crucial part of personal protective equipment for medical personnel who are at the greatest risk of exposure to the coronavirus. They will also be made available to the police, military and those responsible for transporting workers in the essential services industries.
“With the face shields in critically short supply, we are dedicating our resources and manpower to produce the face shields as quickly as possible,” Berry explains. “We are urgently engaging with our component suppliers and business partners, and inviting them to come on board and assist us with raising funds for this important project.”
The shields, which wrap around the user’s face, are being produced to global health standards using a clear polyethylene shield, polyurethane foam padding and an elastic latex fabric headband to keep it in place. Each unit is packaged with clear instructions on how to wear the shield correctly, along with cleaning and storage guidelines. They are designed to be reusable and sanitized after each use.
Ford employees involved in the production process work according to strict COVID-19 health and personal hygiene guidelines. All staff are screened regularly for coronavirus symptoms and are required to wear latex gloves, face masks and the face shields, and maintain appropriate social distancing at all times.
Ford is working with South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, as well as the Department of Health on this unique transition of its manufacturing operations to produce the face shields.
“Minister Ebrahim Patel has been particularly supportive of our commitment during this public health emergency and is pleased that we are using Ford’s local employees and suppliers to produce the shields,” says Dhiren Vanmali, Ford’s Executive Director of Government Affairs, Africa.
Anyone can contribute
And anyone reading this can join this valiant effort. “We welcome any contributions from individuals and companies across South Africa to support this initiative. Whether it’s R10, R10 000 or R100 000, every little bit counts,” says Berry. “Our goal is to produce at least 500 000 face shields – and possibly even more – so that we can assist the healthcare efforts across the country and even beyond our borders if necessary.”
Already, Trek Plastics has begun supplying the medical-grade materials to Ford at a discounted rate with a capacity for producing 15 000 kits per day. Additionally, Corruseal Group has committed to supplying boxes at no cost for packaging the face shields, and Creative Graphics International has donated materials.
Two of Ford’s transport service providers, Trans-Atlantic Logistics and DSV have also agreed to waive the transport costs to help with distribution to hospitals, clinics and other locations countrywide. Yep, the big heart of truckers is there again. Other suppliers that have contributed thus far include Feltex Automotive and Aeroklas Duys for the foam materials and Lithotec for the labels.
“It’s in periods of crisis such as what we’re experiencing right now across the world with the COVID-19 pandemic, that the extraordinary efforts of people that are committed to making a difference in their communities really stands out,” says Neale Hill, MD of FMCSA.
“We commend the remarkable efforts of every individual at the front-line of the battle against the coronavirus, as well as each company and organisation that is helping to contain its spread, tend to the sick and support the nation with the multitude of essential services during these challenging times,” Hill adds. “We also value the support of every person that is able to contribute to the success of this project.”
All contributions will exclusively be used to purchase the kits for the face shields. Ford is covering all the labour costs for assembly and packaging and as mentioned, supplier companies are assisting with materials, boxes and other packaging materials, as well as transport.
Individuals and companies wishing to contribute to this initiative can send an e-mail to email@example.com, using the reference: Ford SA COVID-19. The relevant banking details will be supplied.
In the US, Ford Motor Company is targeting the production of more than 1-million face shields per week and has already produced over 1.2-million units since the project started just over two weeks ago.
In his speech delivered to the nation on March 15th regarding the measures to be taken to combat COVID-10, President Cyril Ramaphosa ended with the words: “Fellow South Africans, this is the most definitive Thuma Mina moment for our country. I have great trust that our people will respond positively to this call to common action. This epidemic will pass. But it is up to us to determine how long it will last, how damaging it will be and how long it will take our economy and our country to recover. It is true that we are facing a grave emergency. But if we act together – if we act now and if we act decisively – we will overcome it.”
Hats off to FMCSA for responding to that call and for acting decisively to overcome COVID-19. Such action proves the maxim that in every crisis, there is a large measure good that comes out of it.