GM Starts Making Face Masks at Michigan Plant

DETROIT – General Motors expects to deliver its first 20,000 face masks to medical workers April 8 after revamping production lines at its plant in Warren, Mich. 

At full capacity, the plant will be able to produce 1.5 million masks per month, GM said in an announcement. A team of 30 engineers, designers, buyers and members of the manufacturing team worked on the masks, taking them from development to production in a week.

“Our team began looking at ways we could quickly utilize our talents and resources to help in the shared fight against COVID-19,” said Peter Thom, GM vice president of global manufacturing engineering. “Working around the clock, our team rallied with incredible passion and focus to come up with a plan to produce masks that will help protect the women and men on the front lines of this crisis.”

Raw materials for the masks, such as metal nose pieces, elastic straps and nonwoven fabric filters, come from those already involved in the automaker’s supply chain. The Warren Transmission Operations plant, shuttered last year by GM, was selected because it offers a 31,000-square-foot ISO Class 8-equivalent clean room. Existing machinery was removed and new electrical service lines and assembly stations were installed. 

At 2:30 p.m. March 27, the project team had their first production-made mask in their hands. Two-thousand more masks, all test samples, had been made by Monday. 

“Not only did the team make their goal, but they over-delivered,” Thom said. “They actually beat our deadline, running the first mask through the equipment 30 minutes ahead of target. We’re excited because this means we’re even closer to being able to protect the healthcare teams who are working tirelessly to save lives.”

GM and the United Auto Worker are seeking more than two dozen paid volunteers to make the masks. 

On Friday, the day the first masks were made, President Donald Trump sent out a series of tweets and statements saying GM was “wasting time” with negotiations to make ventilators. That same day, GM announced it would build up to 100,00 ventilators per month at its plant in Kokomo, Ind.

In a tweet, Trump said GM should use its former Lordstown Complex – sold to Lordstown Motors Corp. last year – “or some other plant” to make the ventilators.

Pictured: Engineers and technicians set-up and test the machines that will be used to manufacture Level 1 face masks Monday, March 30, 2020 at the General Motors Warren, Michigan manufacturing facility. Production will begin next week and within two weeks ramp up to 50,000 masks per day, with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.