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Bosch secures local contract to build ventilators

Bosch Australia partners with Grey Innovations to build 2000 invasive ventilators

21 Apr 2020

BOSCH Australia has announced its Manufacturing Solutions division (BAMS) has been awarded a $1 million project to help in the build of valuable invasive ventilators out of its facility in Clayton, Victoria, to help the fight against the COVID-19 virus.


The German industrial giant has partnered with local technology commercialisation firm Grey Innovation, who have led a consortium that has been put together to produce ventilators for the Australian government.


Bosch’s involvement is part of a wider $31.3 million Federal government contract secured by Grey Innovation, which is spearheading the project and leaning on other companies such as BAMS to help pull the whole process together.


Supported by the Victorian government and the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), the program will see 2000 ventilators go to the Australian government, while the Victorian government has announced its intention to buy an additional 2000 units.


While not producing the ventilators themselves, BAMS will manufacture the test equipment needed to check the ventilators, with the first deliveries expected at the start of May, and the final manufacturing to wrap up before the end of the month.


Despite 2000 ventilators being produced and overseen by Grey Innovations, BAMS will only be required to produce around 60 examples of the test apparatus, which can be reused to test the ventilators for a range of functions such as air flow.


BAMS general manager Peter Hook told GoAuto that the company is happy to continue making testing equipment after the initial order has been filled, if the government calls for more ventilators to be made. 


Mr Hook added that producing equipment such as the ventilator test kits was a natural progression for the company, given that it already produces specialty high-tech equipment for the medical industry.


“We manufacture either production lines or test equipment that goes on production lines (as) a big chunk of our business, and we supply to the med-tech space already, so we’re dealing with a number of brands around Australia doing this sort of thing, so the test equipment is just par for the course of what we normally do,” he said.


“Our team came out of the manufacturing we used to have on site in Clayton, and have used those skills to branch into other industries, and that’s why we’re in the med-tech space, there’s a lot of similarities with what they do.”


In terms of the manpower required to make the testing kits a reality, BAMS said it would require around 10 staff working in the area of procurement given the COVID-19 shutdown has made sourcing of parts difficult.


When undergoing full production, around 15-20 employees will be involved in the process, but the company has not had to postpone or cancel any of its other manufacturing projects to make room for the testing kits.


Mr Hook said that Bosch’s production capacity had largely been unaffected by the coronavirus, given that much of the equipment it manufactures has not seen a dip in demand, with only one of many projects currently seeing a slow-down.


In order to fill the entire batch of test equipment by the end of May, BAMS is having employees work extra shifts and on the weekends, for which Mr Hook said they would be compensated.


Nevertheless, employees have signalled their desire to volunteer where needed to help push the project along.


“We asked for volunteers or people that wanted to be involved in the team to assist,” said Mr Hook. 


“The overwhelming majority of our team wanted to be involved in the project and help wherever they can, so it was a really nice response.”


Mr Hook also confirmed that BAMS was open to contributing to more projects related to COVID-19 manufacturing, having been in contact with other stakeholders on how it can bring its manufacturing prowess to the fight.


“AMGC is driving a number of these, we let them know that we are available if they need us and if the skillsets match what we’re able to do, then I’m sure we’ll be involved in that,” he said.


“We are in discussions with other potential COVID-19 projects, but I can’t discuss that at this stage.”


He added that if BAMS gets overwhelmed with demand, there are a number of other areas of the Bosch business that could be called upon to help.


“We are quite flexible, and outside my division at Bosch we have a number of other areas that are very skilled and have some people that can assist, so there’s a chance that if we get to a point where we’re tapped out in terms of capacity – there’s only so many shifts you can put on and weekends you can work – we can draw on some of the resources from other parts of the business at Bosch. 


“So we’re pretty confident that we’ve got with the technical expertise we’ve got in other parts of the business it’s pretty transferable into what we’re doing so we think that won’t be a problem.”


Bosch is the largest vehicle component manufacturer in the world, with the Australian division previously developing ABS and ESP systems for vehicles such as the Ford Territory.


Since the cessation of local auto manufacturing in 2017, Bosch Australia has since turned its hand to engineering connected and automated vehicle technologies.


Grey Innovation said it will start the supply of ventilators in June, with the initial order of 2000 units to be completed by the end of July. 


Grey Innovation executive chairman Jefferson Harcourt said he was impressed by the response of Australian companies in their willingness to help with the manufacturing process.


“Victoria has the highest concentration of engineering and manufacturing companies in Australia, and as such, we are well placed to work together to do something about ensuring there isn’t a shortfall of ICU equipment here in Victoria and the rest of the country,” he said.


“We thank the Australian Government along with the Victorian Government and AMGC for their support of the vision and rapid response to get the program underway and are overwhelmed by the willingness of our industry colleagues to respond in this critical hour of need.”


Austin Health senior clinical anaesthetist Dr Bruce Thompson, one of the members of Grey Innovations’ advisory team, said the unity shown across all stakeholders has been refreshing to see.


“The ventilator design is lightweight and portable and has been selected for its ability to be easily transferred to us for the actual production, and its ease of use for our medical teams,” he said.


“Grey Innovation has done an incredible job in bringing everyone together to make it happen; government, local businesses, clinicians. It’s amazing what can be achieved in the wake of a global crisis such as this.”

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