By Tomi Kilgore, MarketWatch
A car maker, industrial conglomerate and Post-it Notes maker said Tuesday they are working together to help ease the COVID-19 national emergency, as they look to boost production of equipment to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is time for action and cooperation,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman at Ford Motor Co. “By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front line of this crisis.
Ford /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -3.34% and General Electric Co.’s /zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite GE -2.83% health care unit are collaborating to accelerate the production of much-needed ventilators. Ford said it would provide its technical and production expertise to manufacture a simplified design of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilators.
The announcement comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pleaded for thousands of ventilators to be sent to New York within the next 14 days to deal with an expected severe shortage. New York has been the U.S. epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak with at least 125 deaths.
“We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to help address the growing challenge we collectively face from COVID-19,” said GE Healthcare Chief Executive Kieran Murphy. “We are proud to bring our clinical and technical expertise to this collaboration with Ford, working together to serve unprecedented demand for this lifesaving technology and support clinicians as they meet patient needs.”
Ford also is teeming up with 3M Co. /zigman2/quotes/205029460/composite MMM -0.52% , the maker of consumer products such as Post-it Notes and Scotch tape, but also of health care equipment, to boost production of powered air purifying respirators (PAPR) and other personal protective equipment (PPE). 3M also makes surgical masks and respirators.
“We’re exploring all available opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get health care supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes partnering with other great companies like Ford,” said 3M Chief Executive Mike Roman.
/zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite GE 11.33, -0.33, -2.83%
/zigman2/quotes/205029460/composite MMM 165.55, -0.86, -0.52%
Ford is helping with ways to increase the manufacturing capacity of 3M’s PAPR designs and collaborating on developing a new design, using parts from both companies. The companies have been locating “off-the-shelf” common parts to make the PAPRs, including fans from the Ford F-150 trucks’ cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants and portable tool battery packs to power the respirators.
“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett.
Ford, GE and 3M aren’t the first companies to get creative as the fight the COVID-19 crisis. CVS Health said Monday it planned to hire the furloughed employees of its customer Marriott International Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200170042/composite MAR -1.65% and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202780307/composite HLT -3.30% , and mall real-estate investment trust Washington Prime Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204787457/composite WPG -7.38% offered to use its open air malls as distribution centers for medical supplies, COVID-19 testing centers and food depositories while the malls are closed for retail business.
And last week, Carnival Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202325446/composite CCL -0.62% offered to use some of its empty cruise ships as temporary hospitals to treat non-COVID-19 patients, to free up additional for land-based hospitals to treat COVID-19 cases.
Ford also said Tuesday it was volunteering facilities for additional production of medical equipment, as well as using its 3-D printers to make disposable respirators. Ford is also starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders.
Separately, GE Healthcare has provided information on its website, in alignment with guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on the use of its anesthesia devices for patients requiring mechanical ventilation. “Clinicians can use these details in the treatment of patients at their discretion,” GE Healthcare said in a statement.
The news from Ford, GE and 3M comes as each has struggled in their core businesses as a result of the COVID-19-related drop in demand. GE’s stock closed at a 28-year low on Monday, while 3M shares ended at a 7-year low. Ford’s stock, which was downgraded to neutral from buy at UBS on Tuesday, closed Monday at an 11-year low. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.72% closed at a 3-year low on Monday.
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks soared, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.57% rising 2,113 points, or 11.4%, amid optimism that Congress could soon agree to a massive fiscal stimulus package to help soften the economic blow of the coronavirus.
“We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus,” said Ford’s Hackett.