Manufacturing and COVID-19 – navigating the way forward


The global manufacturing community has been called upon to help bolster the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the Government's response to COVID-19.

The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), part of the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering, has been flagging up specific ways in which companies and individuals can contribute to address manufacturing-related challenges resulting from COVID-19. It is also offering access, both nationally and locally, to its expertise in road-mapping of supply chains, support for operational improvement and re-purposing of existing manufacturing chains.

In an interview with The Manufacturer, Professor Tim Minshall, Dr John C Taylor Professor of Innovation and Head of the IfM, discusses the positive response from industry this week to the government’s call to supply ventilators and ventilator components, and some of the challenges the initiative – being coordinated by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – faces.

Professor Minshall told The Manufacturer there is a balance to be struck between the enthusiasm of manufacturers in responding to the government’s call, the challenge of coordinating efforts at speed and scale, and the need to comply with the stringent standards for any product entering the healthcare system. 

Manufacturing is a making, creative, innovative activity in its own right, and to see the way in which the manufacturing community is coming together to overcome these barriers that we’re all facing is absolutely fantastic,” he said. 

Professor Minshall noted a major dilemma that needs to be addressed: amazing things can be achieved through collaboration, but implementing effective collaborations through the whole cycle from idea generation to delivery can be really difficult – especially when dealing with rapidly changing, complex situations. “It’s very easy to have the idea and very easy to share things you might think about doing together, but to go all the way through to execution, particularly in an environment that we are facing now – in a healthcare environment where if you get it wrong people will suffer– that’s a particularly challenging area.”

He added: “It’s been brilliant the way in which these collaboration activities have shot forward, but I think there are lots of lessons we can learn about how we make sure the right collaborations happen and how they fit into the healthcare supply chain as effectively as possible.”

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering

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The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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