JCB is ready to restart one of its factories closed as a result of the coronavirus crisis in order to help make parts for ventilators.
Prime minister Boris Johnson made an appeal earlier this month to manufacturers to help make more of the machines used in the treatment of coronavirus patients to address a national shortage.
JCB chairman Lord Bamford mobilised a research and engineering team to examine potential ways to assist and JCB is now ready to restart production at a factory which has been closed for nearly two weeks as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The plant will make special steel housings for a brand new design of ventilator from Dyson. A minimum of 10,000 of the JCB housings are earmarked for manufacture once Dyson receives regulatory approval for its design.
The first prototypes of the housings have been delivered to Dyson after rolling off the production line at JCB’s £50m cab systems factory in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, which Boris Johnson visited during the election campaign. The factory closed on 18 March along with eight other JCB UK manufacturing plants. Mass production of the housings could start in a matter of days, JCB claimed.
Chairman Lord Bamford said: “When we were approached by the prime minister we were determined, as a British company, to help in any way we could. This project has gone from design to production in just a matter of days and I am delighted that we have been to deploy the skills of our talented engineering, design and fabrication teams so quickly at a time of national crisis. This is also a global crisis, of course, and we will naturally help with the production of more housings if these ventilators are eventually required by other countries.”
If production starts, around 50 employees affected by an extended company shutdown announced last week will return to work. JCB suspended production at its nine UK production plants until at least the end of April as a result of the coronavirus crisis and furloughed the majority of its 6,500 workforce. The company is paying them 80% of their basic pay for the next month, regardless of what they earn.
Employees returning to work to help manufacture the ventilator housings will be paid 100% of their normal pay.