top of page

TopCoronavirus: businesses changing production lines to fight the pandemic

Production pivots to beat COVID-19


As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, many manufacturing companies across the globe are changing what they make to help battle the disease. Click or scroll through as we take a look at the companies whose factories are now on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.

Motor industry makes ventilators and face shields

David Ramos/Getty Images

In the UK, a consortium including Ford, Rolls-Royce, plane manufacturer Airbus and the Formula 1 racing teams are manufacturing ventilators for the National Health Service. The group, called VentilatorChallengeUK, has received an order for more than 15,000 machines based on an existing design by UK company Smiths Group. In Spain, SEAT is making ventilators using adapted windscreen wiper motors (pictured).

Global carmakers producing face masks


Companies around the globe are also falling over each other to produce or donate protective face masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In the US, Ford, General Motors and Tesla have already built and sent out face shields for hospital staff while Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has delivered one million masks. Chinese automaker BYD has also retooled its manufacturing facilities to produce five million masks per day, which makes it the world's number one producer. The firm is also making 300,000 bottles of sanitiser gel each day.

China's automakers make medical masks


General Motors' China-based plants have also switched to producing face masks in its venture SAIC-GM-Wuling, with 14 production lines able to churn out 1.4 millon masks a day. Announcing newly-designed machines at one of its plants in Liuzhou, southwest China, the company is making masks similar to the N95 mask. Medics and frontline staff use N95 masks, which block 95% of particles of 0.3 microns and above. The carmakers are also upgrading their vehicle air filtration systems to protect passengers.

Dyson builds ventilators instead of vacuums


Dyson, famous for its bagless vacuum cleaners, has designed a new type of ventilator called the "CoVent" in partnership with medical research company The Technology Company in just 10 days. The company rushed to design and manufacture the machines as it looked as though the UK had a dangerous shortage. It was expected that Dyson would produce 10,000 ventilators, however demand has not been as high as anticipated, and Sir James Dyson, who put £10 million (£12.4m) of his own money into the efforts, has recently said that those machines were no longer needed. None of the hardwork should go to waste however, as Dyson hopes that other countries will be able to put the devices to good use.

H&M to supply face masks


H&M, the world's second biggest fashion retailer, has promised to produce protective face masks for medical staff working in Europe. Of the first 100,000 face masks completed on 2 April, half were sent to Spain and half to Italy. According to a statement from the company, it has offered its help to the EU and is trying to work out how to use its supply chains to meet the most urgent needs.

Inditex making masks and gowns


Inditex, the parent company of fast-fashion retailer Zara, is using its factory space as production lines to manufacture face masks and hospital gowns. The Spanish-based company claims to be in the process of distributing some two million masks across Spain, which at the time of writing has had the second most coronavirus-related deaths per capita.

Ralph Lauren stitches up medical masks and gowns

Martin Good/Shutterstock

American fashion house Ralph Lauren has switched from luxury clothing to medical garments, announcing on 26 March that it would shift its production lines to making 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns for use in the US. Kering, the company which owns luxury brands Gucci and Prada, has committed to producing three million masks to help plug shortages.

Canada Goose making scrubs


Best known for its ultra-warm winter coats, Canadian clothing company Canada Goose retooled its production lines to start making scrubs and patient gowns at the beginning of April. Some 10,000 units will be manufactured at two factories in Toronto and Winnipeg, with the company stating it will extend production to other factories if needed.

US yarn spinner Parkdale Inc. making medical equipment

New Africa/Shutterstock

Parkdale Inc., a large yarn spinner based in Gastonia, North Carolina has switched to producing medical masks for hospitals. Partnering with clothing brands including Hanesbrands, Fruit of the Loom, American Giant and Los Angeles Apparel, it’s creating new supply chains with the hope of producing up to 10 million face masks a week across the US and Central America.

Arkema provides health authorities with hand gel

Jens Schlueter/DPA/PA Images

From clothing brands to chemicals manufacturers, a lot of international companies are doing what they can to help in the battle against coronavirus. French firm Arkema has altered one of its production lines to make alcohol-based disinfectant. The chemicals company is endeavouring to produce 20 tonnes of the product per week at its Rhône Alpes Research Centre and will provide the fruits of its labour to health authorities in the country free of charge.

BrewDog craft beer company turns to hand sanitiser

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a market that the booze industry has also been able to tap into. BrewDog, the irreverant Scottish craft brewer founded in 2007, has created its very own 'Punk' hand sanitiser. The company has transformed its Aberdeen distillery into a production line for the vital product and has donated more than 50,000 bottles to the UK's NHS and local charities, according to the latest figures from its website.

Anheuser-Busch producing hand sanitiser

Jasper Jacobs/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty

The world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch, which produces Budweiser among other famous beer brands, is producing 250ml hand sanitiser bottles. The company said it would be working with the Red Cross to distribute the product to hospitals and pharmacies, emphasising that hand sanitiser would be made in addition to, not instead of, beer.

Putting a bit of spirit into hand sanitiser


It's not only beer companies that are changing what they're producing during the pandemic – spirit producers are also getting involved. France's Pernod Ricard is donating ethanol and manufacturing the end product too. The parent company of Absolut vodka and Perrier-Jouët Champagne is repurposing distilleries in Spain and Ireland into hand sanitiser factories, and it is also donating enough pure alcohol to make 1.8 million bottles of hand sanitiser. The maker of Bombay Sapphire gin, Patrón Tequila and the eponymous rum, Bacardi has also sprung onto the hand gel bandwagon. The Bermuda-based booze company is planning to make 1.1 million bottles at distilleries in the US, UK, Mexico, Italy and France.

The British Honey Company to make hand sanitisers

Harvey Boyd/Pixabay

The British Honey Company, a distillery based in Buckinghamshire, England will be producing hand sanitiser to make up for national shortages. The company, which usually makes vodka and gin from honey, was given the go-ahead by tax authorities to use its spare capacity to make sanitiser. Its formula consist of 70% alcohol (health authorities recommend alcohol concentrations of at least 60%) along with green tea and honey extracts. The business has reported that the sales of the sanitiser have generated more than £500,000 ($614k), which more than offsets the income lost from their core offering.

PKN Orlen goes from oil to hand sanitiser


A lot of oil companies are freeing up their raw materials so that they can be made into essential products during the pandemic, but PKN Orlen has cut out the middle man and is making its own hand gel. Poland's largest oil refiner started manufacturing the disinfectant in March, with the capacity to produce up to a million litres if needed. The production line normally reserved for screenwash has been repurposed to churn out the vast quantities of hand gel.

LVMH to lend a hand to French hospitals


Luxury goods group LVMH, which owns fashion house Louis Vuitton, has swapped perfume for hand sanitiser in three factories in a bid to beat shortages in France. The group pledged to manufacture hand sanitiser on Saturday 14 March, and by the following Monday was already rolling its first bottles off production lines and delivering them to French health authorities.

L'Oréal turns from lipstick to hand sanitiser