ETH Zurich researcher Torbjørn Netland advocates a comprehensive approach to fan production and defines six areas of activity.
An epidemic is an emotional problem. With the lives of our friends and loved ones at stake, our reaction tends to be: Close the borders! Put the planes on the ground! Such answers are natural and perfectly understandable.
Although isolation has become a necessity on a personal level, using the same strategy in other contexts can quickly become counterproductive – for example, with regard to fans.
Ministries of health around the world face the same appalling dilemma. Last year, 77,000 new fans were enough to meet market demand around the world. In April, New York City alone forecasts a need for 30,000 more machines – and no one has a real idea of what the total demand will be in the crown crisis.
Where are we going to get all these machines?
Myopic politicians everywhere are seeing increased domestic production as the solution to the fan shortage, and for certain products and countries that may well be part of the solution.
But when you look at where the ventilation companies are located and where they source 700+ parts that enter it, it’s easy to see that a better solution is not to accumulate machines, 3D printing or to tinker with makeshift devices. In the short term, the only way to be successful is to have the world’s most established fan manufacturers mass produce many more units. Quick.
Unfortunately, global supply chains – which we could use the most now – are being dismantled. These systems are now even discredited as one of the factors triggering the pandemic. Do we want to save the lives of as many coronavirus victims as possible? Next, we need to increase the global production capacity of fan manufacturers, not hinder it.
The main fan manufacturers have the advantage of not having to convert all of their production lines. They can also produce more profitably.
But there is a catch: although some of these manufacturers have already increased their production by 30 to 50%, they alone cannot reach a growth rate of 500 or 1000%, which may be the required level .
They need support in their supply chains. I am not suggesting that WHO coordinate all of the production and transport capacity for ventilators.
But producers and fan supply chains, large logistics companies, national postal services, and even national military supply agencies should work together.
Six areas of activity
Let’s start by mapping the supply chain for fans. In normal times, it is enough to associate with reliable subcontractors, but in the event of a crisis, manufacturers must know what parts are needed and where they can be purchased. Which components are the rarest? Is the component necessary or can a more readily available alternative be used instead?
Second, let’s streamline the tracks. Consider the best ways to get these parts to the manufacturer and what it would take to increase capacity. Are there overlaps in supply chains between industries, for example, that could facilitate shipments? Could we establish global rapid response logistics networks through air traffic platforms?
Third, anticipate demand. Plot where demand is increasing and where the next epicenters of coronavirus are likely to be. Leading research centers such as Imperial College London are already providing daily updates and their analysis could be used to manage orders fairly and efficiently.
The virus doesn’t care about limits – and neither should we.
End of quote
Fourth, let’s recruit more help. Next, think about which companies, at each level of this supply chain, are best placed to increase their capacity. In the UK, a vacuum cleaner manufacturer is ramping up production of a new, internally designed device. Who else could have useful expertise?
Fifth, let’s train the operators. A manufacturer recently stated Der Spiegel that the biggest challenge is finding enough people trained to operate the fans. Can the machine be simplified and made more user-friendly?
Should documentation be improved or training simplified or digitized? Could we start training health workers now to operate the ventilators that will arrive in the coming months?
Sixth, let’s look for alternatives. The above tasks must be given priority, but during this global crisis, we must also seek alternative products. Many ambulances have respirators in their standard equipment. For the duration of the emergency, reserve mobile respirators could be reused.
Could lesser-tech solutions, such as hand pumps, which saved lives in Copenhagen during a polio epidemic in 1952, play a role in some countries?
Finally, we must not lose sight of this global and strategic vision throughout the duration of the emergency. If we are to effectively and efficiently resolve the health problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we must take a broad systemic perspective. The virus doesn’t care about limits – and neither do we.
This blog was originally published in the World Economic Forum Agendaexternal link
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of swissinfo.ch.
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