How Airon, a Small Florida Manufacturer, Quickly Partnered with Ford & GE Healthcare to Make Ventilators.
On Wednesday, April 22, close to 1,200 people tuned into the webinar From Three to Thousands! How Airon, a Small Florida Manufacturer, Quickly Partnered with Ford & GE Healthcare to Make Ventilators, hosted by GIE Media’s Manufacturing Group.
MedWorld Advisors CEO Florence Black and Managing Director Dave Sheppard spoke about the insights gained from their recent experience connecting Airon, a small Melbourne, Florida-based ventilator manufacturer, with two giant global companies to scale up production from three units a day to thousands to meet COVID-19 demands.
In just 12 days, rather than the typical months-long process, Ford engineers had disassembled units, identified all critical parts, and determined the best way to produce the ventilators en masse. Airon licensed the design to GE, and Ford is serving as GE Medical's contract manufacturer for the pNeuton model A-E ventilator.
This is a story of American ingenuity, the spirit of which Henry Ford and Thomas Edison embodied. The 20th century entrepreneurs would be proud of their companies today.
On March 18, 2020, Airon Founder and CEO Eric Gjerde and his wife, Airon Vice President Pamela Fry, contacted MedWorld Advisors to let them know about their high-quality mobile ventilator, the pNeuton, which is lightweight, portable, easy-to-use, and pneumatically powered. The ventilator is used in MRIs and in ambulances and operates with dials on an analogue system instead of digital displays—making it easier for medical staff who are not familiar with critical care.
Gjerde and Fry knew they had a great product but lacked the capacity to make the quantities the pandemic requires. That’s when MedWorld Advisors matched Airon with Ford and GE Healthcare.
On March 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s released the process Emergency Use Application (EUA) for ventilators, which defines circumstances that justify the authorization of emergency use of medical devices. This was a key factor in allowing these companies to reach an agreement. By March 30, Ford and GE Healthcare announced collaboration to produce 50,000 Airon model A-E ventilators in the next 100 days.
Ford & GE Healthcare took great pride in this project. Sheppard specifically praised Ford’s two engineering teams in Dearborn, Mich., and Melbourne, Fla.; its Rawsonville, Mich., United Auto Workers; and suppliers for rallying the spirit of Rosie the Riveter to get production going.
Before production, and in just under 48 hours, the Dearborn team examined Airon’s CAD-CAM files while the Melbourne team 3D scanned all the parts in the Airon facility. “Breaking down the production process into smaller defined steps eased the training and increased final production,” said Gjerde.
The entire webinar can be viewed on TodaysMedicalDevelopments.com. The webinar was sponsored in part by AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology and IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show, HANNOVER MESSE, SCHUNK, SMALLEY, THK, and Maxon.
For more information, read Forbes coverage, “How Old-school Manufacturers Learned to Make Ventilators—Virtually Overnight.” A better title might be, “Manufacturers Get It Done!”