With vehicle production halted owing to the Covid-19 lockdown, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) has switched its focus to the manufacture of face masks and medical equipment.
VWSA has partnered with Gusco, which has previously been a beneficiary of the company’s Community Trust, to produce soft fabric face masks aimed at reducing the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Following a successful trial batch, production of these masks began last week, with the goal of delivering a few thousand masks over the coming weeks in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro area.
VWSA’s vehicle plant is situated in Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape.
VWSA’s engineers are also part of an international Volkswagen team investigating ways in which the German car maker can provide assistance during the global crisis.
In addition to this collaboration, VWSA is also part of the National Government Task Force team working on medical equipment, such as ventilators.
To this end, the company’s research and development team is using 3D printing technology to produce parts for a mechanical ventilator, which will be manufactured at the Uitenhage plant.
The ventilator is based on an open-source design produced by Seat, in Spain.
Seat is a member of the Volkswagen group.
“We are working with Dr John Black, who is the lead medical advisor on Covid-19 in Nelson Mandela Bay, Dr Adrian Wentzel, a local anaesthetist, and Quinton Uren of Jendamark Automation,” says VWSA technical engineering head Joost Kessels.
“Our legal team is in the process of obtaining the medical release from the relevant authorities as South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, which we need before we can commence with mass production.”
“We are continuously investigating ways in which VWSA can offer support to the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in this time of crisis,” adds VWSA chairperson and MD Thomas Schäfer.
“We are working together as business under the lead of the business chamber in assisting Dr Black and his team with everything we can, from engineering to logistics.
“It is very important for all the key stakeholders in the metro to collaborate in order to flatten the curve of the infections, whilst protecting the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.”