Whether in a hospital, an ambulance, or even at home, ventilators are vital in saving lives as well as to assist natural breathing. Most of them are quick and easy to use. Yet few people realize just how much work goes into each individual device. Manufacturing is a complex process, which depends on a range of different factors. Firstly, medical technology companies must adhere to the strict regulatory system in order to ensure patient safety. Along with that, manufacturers are dependent on their global supply chain to obtain key components.
Quality over quantity
Most of WEINMANN Emergency's components come from Germany. That means that shipping distances are short, and the production technicians get the components they need when they need them. But before they can start assembling a ventilator from its approximately 300 component parts, they have to build a prototype. That involves the Production and Design teams working together, so as to assemble the ventilator just as the engineers envisioned it.
Then it gets tested: Does it work as intended? Do any modifications need to be made? Are there any key components missing? This process usually extends over three to four rounds, until the production technicians can finally start the pilot production. At this point the team has reached the penultimate phase of production startup, and they are in a position to build the ventilator under realistic conditions. That means the components and tools are exactly the same as those that will be used in the subsequent mass production. Everything is recorded in detail and passed on to Quality Management. The quality managers then check whether the ventilator can be released for mass production.
Once approval has been given, work production starts in WEINMANN Emergency's almost 20,000 square foot factory. Its various areas and lines are set up to ensure that production runs smoothly. Clean zone S1 is for tubing systems, for example, and clean zone S2 for pressure reducers. The production lines are arranged close together so that staff never have far to move. Production technician Harry Kalk has been with WEINMANN Emergency for an impressive 42 years. He is well aware of how crucial every single step carried out by himself and his colleagues is: “I often tell myself - and it’s something I tell every new employee who joins us too: Someone in your family might have to rely on this device. Everyone needs to keep that in mind when they’re working in production.” Diligence and attention to detail are essential. The production technicians hand-craft the ventilators so as ultimately to provide customers with a highly efficient device.
Everything is possible
The last year, in particular, has shown that there are also sometimes challenges to overcome. Demand for ventilators suddenly increased rapidly because of COVID-19, which primarily attacks the lungs. Like many other manufacturers, WEINMANN Emergency increased its production capacity in order to help those affected. Employees put in additional production shifts to meet the increased demand. “It was a very stressful time, because production rates quickly doubled. At the same time, we knew how important our work was to society at large. That's why everyone was highly committed to meeting the challenge,” says Harry Kalk. True to the motto: We Simplify Saving Lives.