General Motors (NYSE:GM) said that its plan to manufacture face masks for workers in healthcare and essential businesses is well underway -- and the company expects to deliver the first 20,000 of them on April 8.
GM has been working since March 20 on this effort to help protect people from the COVID-19 coronavirus. A team of engineers and technicians has installed the necessary machinery in a "clean room" at the automaker's Warren, Michigan, test center, and is currently testing the manufacturing process.
The team made roughly 2,000 masks in a test run over the weekend, GM said. Those will be checked to ensure that they meet quality standards, so that, if necessary, adjustments can be made before full production ramps up. The company expects to have the first batch of 20,000 ready for delivery on April 8.
Once it's up to speed, the facility will be able to make 50,000 masks every day, or 1.5 million masks per month.
GM Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering Peter Thom said that the teams have been working around the clock to get the manufacturing line up and running. The initial goal was to go from zero to a test batch within a week of the core team's initial meeting. That goal was met with 30 minutes to spare, Thom said.
Plant Director Karsten Garbe said that a group of engineers and designers who work with fabrics -- seat-belt and interior-trim specialists -- rushed to become experts in face-mask manufacturing, while suppliers quickly tooled up to produce elastic straps and the special non-woven fabric needed for the masks' filters.
GM plans to provide some of the masks to workers producing hospital ventilators at its facility in Kokomo, Indiana. Most will be distributed elsewhere, though the company is still working out the details.