Unfortunately, the global supply chains - which we could use most now - are being dismantled. Such 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? Then we should increase the worldwide production capacity of ventilator manufacturers, not hinder it.
All pulling together
The leading manufacturers of ventilators have the advantage of not having to convert their entire production lines. They can also produce more cost-efficiently. But there is a catch: although some of these manufacturers have already increased their production by 30-50%, they cannot achieve a growth rate of 500 or 1000% alone, which may be the level required. They need support with their supply chains. I am not suggesting that the WHO should coordinate the entire production capacity and transport of ventilators. But the producers and the supply chains of ventilators, large logistics companies, the national postal services and even the national military procurement agencies should work together.
Six areas of activity
First, let’s map the supply chain for ventilators. In normal times it is enough to partner with reliable subcontractors, but in a crisis, manufacturers need to know what parts are needed and where they can be procured. Which components are the most scarce? Is the component necessary, or can a more readily available alternative be used instead?
Second, let’s streamline the pathways. Consider the best ways to get those parts to the manufacturer, and what it would take to expand capacity. Is there any overlap in supply chains between industries, for example, that could facilitate easier shipments? Could we establish global, rapid-response logistic networks through air traffic hubs?
Third, let’s forecast demand. Plot where demand is growing, and where the next coronavirus epicenters are likely to be. Leading research centers such as Imperial College London are already contributing daily updates, and their analytics could be used to manage orders fairly and efficiently.
Fourth, let’s recruit more help. Next, think about which companies, at each level of this supply chain, are best positioned to step up their capacity. In the United Kingdom a vacuum cleaner producer is ramping up production of a new device designed in house. Who else might have useful expertise?