The Volkswagen Group has used its expertise in shipping and logistics to find, transport and set up production of personal protective equipment needed to fight Covid-19 outbreak.
In the U.S., Volkswagen has teamed with Dow and Whirlpool to help launch much-needed production of respirator hoods. In Mexico, Volkswagen worked with Faurecia for production of face masks and gowns and in Germany, it found a way in a matter of days to ship an estimated $40 million worth of protective equipment and supplies throughout Europe.
“Working globally at speed is one of the key strengths that makes the Volkswagen Group a successful automaker,” said Michael Lovati, senior vice president of purchasing and chief procurement officer for the North American Region. “We know how to get suppliers and buyers together to get products where they need to be, and we’ve been thankful for the opportunity to help our communities worldwide fight this disease.”
At Volkswagen Chattanooga, a team of supply and logistics experts have been working for the past few months to broker connections with materials and supply-chain partners to find critical components and fabrics. One of its first projects was helping seat supplier Faurecia set up a production line for personal protective equipment at its factory in Puebla, Mexico. With Volkswagen’s help, Faurecia was able to pivot its processes and can now product upwards of 1 million masks and 50,000 gowns per week.
The task force also assisted Dow and Whirlpool to help produce a powered, air-purifying respirator or PAPR. The PAPR replaces N95 protective masks and visors, using a replaceable polyethylene hood that is flexible, comfortable and can quickly be replaced between medical patients. Volkswagen, Dow and parts supplier Magna also have teamed up to launch production of medical gowns.
In Chattanooga, the Volkswagen e-Labs pressed their 3D printers into service making face shields. 3D-printed headbands were delivered to the Public Education Foundation in Chattanooga, which then added the plastic face shields and distributed the final product to local medical centers.
The Volkswagen Group also has used its 3D printers across its European plants, and partnering with Airbus, to make face shield holders.
Volkswagen Chattanooga assembles the Passat and Atlas, as well as the Atlas Cross Sport. It employs 3,800 team members, but that could increase with the company’s plans to expand the Chattanooga plant to make electric vehicles.
The Volkswagen eLabs are digital fabrication studios in Hamilton County Schools that provide public school students with access to prototyping technologies. These labs are equipped with automated manufacturing equipment, 3D printers, robotics, microcomputers, renewable energy kits and digital design tools.