3M’s Mask Production Plan

Plans to use “surge capacity” to make over 1 billion face masks by year’s end

Over the past month, we’ve been highlighting companies’ efforts to help out humankind in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Siemens has turned to its 3D printing expertise to supply parts for medical equipment more quickly to the front lines. ABB reminded us of the difficult circumstances by clarifying workforce duties last week. Dyson is supplying over 10,000 ventilators to the UK government. It’s not just the big names, either: electric vehicle maker Mullen Technologies (Monrovia, Calif.) is making ventilators.

However, the big names should be stepping up, seeing as they have an inside lane to capital, resources, and influence. The only problem is, this isn’t always easy. The latest worldwide manufacturer to lay out a response strategy is 3M. A March 19 news release details 3M’s ambitious “surge capacity” methods to manufacturer over 1 billion face masks by year’s end.

3M pledged it is “fully committed to fight the spread of COVID-19 by supporting the healthcare workers in the United States and worldwide.”

“This pandemic is affecting us all, and we are doing all we can to support public health and especially our first-responders and those impacted by this global health crisis. We are mobilizing all available resources and rapidly increasing output of critical supplies healthcare workers in the United States and around the world need to help protect their lives as they treat others,” said Mike Roman, 3M chairman and chief executive officer.

The company is currently producing 35 million respirators per month in the U.S. alone; of these, more than 90% of which are now designated for healthcare workers, with the remaining deployed to other industria discriminae (critical industries) including energy, food and pharmaceutical companies. ​

March 22, Roman shared in a LinkedIn post conveying how the company’s work is translating into product going where it is needed most:

“Like everyone, I see the pleas from our heroic doctors, nurses and first responders for the respirators and other equipment they desperately need. I want people to know we are doing all we can to meet the demands of this extraordinary time and get supplies from our plants to where they’re most needed as quickly as possible. As I write this, more than 500,000 respirators are on the way from our South Dakota plant to two of the more critically impacted areas, New York and Seattle, with arrivals expected starting tomorrow. We are also ready to expedite additional shipments across the country.​”

Supporting Emergency Response

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 3M has doubled its global output of N95 respirators to an annual rate of over 1.1 billion per year, or nearly 100 million per month globally.

In the U.S., 3M currently manufactures more than 400 million N95 respirators annually, which is increasingly being directed to support both government and public health response. The company also manufactures respirators at locations in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

In addition, 3M is increasing its investments, primarily in the U.S., to expand its global capacity by over 30 percent in the next 12 months.

The company is also maximizing production of a wide range of other products used in the COVID-19 response globally including hand sanitizers, disinfectants and filtration solutions as the pharmaceutical industry works to find a vaccine to fight the virus.

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