Back to business: VentilatorChallengeUK ends after delivering 13,437 ventilators


VentilatorChallengeUK, a consortium of UK aerospace, motorsport, automotive and medical businesses, has concluded the initiative after more than doubling the stock of ventilators available to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The consortium was formed on 19 March in response to the anticipated escalation in Covid-19 cases, manufacturing and delivering Penlon ESO 2 and Smiths paraPAC Plus ventilators to the NHS. Having delivered 13,437 ventilators, the consortium members are now resuming their normal business.

The consortium achieved several milestones:

  • Scaled-up the Penlon ESO2 emergency ventilator device, which modified proven clinical equipment, and the Smiths paraPAC Plus. Both met clinicians’ requirements as understanding of the virus progressed
  • Established, from scratch, seven new large-scale manufacturing facilities at Airbus AMRC Cymru in Broughton, Ford in Dagenham, GKN Aerospace in Luton and Cowes, McLaren in Woking, Rolls-Royce in Filton and STI in Hook, as well as restructuring existing sites Smiths Medical in Luton and Penlon in Abingdon
  • Ventilator peak production exceeded 400 devices a day, with the shortest time taken to achieve 1,000 ventilators being three days
  • Set up new parallel supply chains and acquired around 42 million parts and electronic components through a complex logistics network that saw DHL design and implement an end-to-end supply chain in only 1.5 weeks
  • Despite global competition for parts and lockdown challenges during the pandemic the team sourced part from over 22 countries, with the furthest distance travelled by a single part being 5,226 miles
  • Achieved full MHRA approval for the Penlon ESO 2 device in just three weeks, becoming the first newly adapted ventilator design to be given regulatory authorisation as part of the UK Government’s fight against Covid-19 and then going on the secure the international quality seal of approval by way of CE marking
  • Recruited and trained a 3,500-strong front-line assembly team in a new age of social distancing, balancing the twin imperatives of speedy delivery with adherence to the regulatory standards needed to ensure patient safety

Staff at Penlon in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, ship the final truck of ventilators out to the NHS. The order for 15,000 Ventilator Challenge Penlon devices placed by the Government for the newly adapted design backed by a high tech manufacturing consortium VentilatorChallengeUK (VCUK), which includes Formula One racing teams Mercedes, McLaren and Williams along with Ford, Siemens, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, and BAE Systems has been completed. PA Photo. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Dick Elsy, chairman of VentilatorChallengeUK and CEO of High Value Manufacturing Catapult, stated, “What VentilatorChallengeUK has achieved in the space of 12 weeks is nothing short of incredible. Creating and producing an approved product and setting up production facilities on this scale would normally take years. I am immensely proud of the energy, determination and ingenuity shown by every business in responding to this national need. Together, we have helped ensure the NHS has always had access to the number of ventilators it needs, and we’re pleased to have also contributed to building a resilient stock should ventilators be required in the UK in the future.”

Elsy added, “This coalition of the very best of this country’s people and capability across different sectors has truly showcased the strength of the manufacturing industry in the UK. While we have now delivered all the required ventilators to the NHS, the Consortium is looking to capture lessons learned and share them across the engineering community – and with Government – as key tools to help UK industry get back on its feet after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed.”

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said,The Ventilator Challenge has shown that UK manufacturing always rises to the challenge at a time of national need. Everyone involved is truly a hero of the coronavirus crisis.”

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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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