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HSV volunteers production line for medical supplies

Helping hand: HSV has offered to manufacture medical equipment to help ease demand created by the COVID-19 virus.

HSV open to using Clayton facility to help build medical equipment to fight COVID-19

26 Mar 2020

HOLDEN Special Vehicles (HSV) has signalled its intention to assist in the manufacture of emergency medical equipment at its production facility in Melbourne’s south-east, to help fight the impact of the COVID-19 virus.


The right-hand-drive conversion specialist has volunteered its production facility to help with the manufacture of emergency items, with the government calling on businesses to help make equipment such as medical gowns, gloves, face masks and ventilators.


Speaking to GoAuto, Walkinshaw Automotive Group chief Ryan Walkinshaw said the company had been monitoring the COVID-19 situation overseas, leading it to volunteer its services if needed.


“We’ve been watching the situation unfold internationally, and following on from developments where auto manufacturers are now involved – we thought we’d make our resources available,” he said.


Mr Walkinshaw said in terms of HSV’s offer being accepted by the government, the company is still in discussions with various government offices and other businesses about a “range of initiatives” to help.


When asked how the logistics of manufacturing would work, Mr Walkinshaw said HSV had some limited production space available at its Clayton facility, but could shift operations around to create more space.


HSV’s facility would be able to be used for a range of different supplies, given the different equipment and expertise it possesses through its right-hand-drive conversion program.


“If it’s ventilators and we are merely assembling an existing design then that’s an easy solution,” Mr Walkinshaw said.


“If we need to make face masks or protective clothing we have a trimming area for car interiors that can be switched over to provide that solution. We have 3D printers, a fabrication shop and machine shop.


“Our caravan business is capable of building emergency hospital factories similar to demountable homes.


“We can convert trucks into emergency vehicles if required. Those are just some of our initial ideas that we will offer to the Government.”


He added that HSV’s 100-strong workforce of engineers and designers would also be on hand to go about creating other products that could be of value.


Speaking more broadly on the state of HSV’s business with the COVID-19 threat looming large, Mr Walkinshaw said the company has been working with its suppliers and dealers to ensure that an extended shutdown could be handled with minimal disruption, however he acknowledged that the rapidly changing external factors could alter the supply situation.


When asked whether HSV would be able to get vehicles and parts into the country going forward, he said that with current situations, HSV is expecting to be able to operate, but has been working through different scenarios with its, managers, employees and suppliers to prepare for a shutdown, if it comes.


Whether or not stock dries up for HSV is still dependent on whether there is a shutdown, and how long it would last for.


HSV is yet to experience any slowdown in demand for its vehicles including the RAM 1500/2500, Chevrolet Silverado and Camaro sportscar, however it anticipated a drop in orders as the virus spreads.


For now, the factory is operational, with a mix of employees working on site and at home.


“The facility is completely operational with over 280 people still on site,” Mr Walkinshaw said.


“The rest are working from home. We’ve adapted our working environment to be within the guidelines such as the observing the distancing rule, removing socialising and congregation areas – which our employees have been fantastic in adopting.”


To limit exposure, all non-production staff have been sent to work from home or with limited access to the factory, with work practices adjusted to encourage reduced interactions.


No staff have been laid off, and jobs at HSV are not under threat “as yet”.


When asked how HSV was prepared to handle the COVID-19 threat, Mr Walkinshaw said the company had planned for a number of potential situations.


“We anticipate conditions to change, and have modelled out a range of scenarios to ensure the longevity of the business.”

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