VentilatorChallengeUK takes a breath after delivering almost 13,500 units to NHS

The work of VentilatorChallengeUK, the consortium of UK aerospace, motorsport, automotive and medical businesses, has concluded after delivering 13,437 units to the NHS - more than doubling the stock available.

Formed on 19 March in response to the anticipated escalation in Covid-19 cases, VentilatorChallengeUK has worked with great determination and energy to deliver critical Penlon ESO 2 and Smiths paraPACTM plus ventilators to the NHS throughout the crisis.

In just 12 weeks, the consortium has:

  • Scaled-up the Penlon ESO2 Emergency Ventilator device which modified proven clinical equipment, and the Smiths paraPAC PlusTM. Both met clinicians’ requirements as understanding of the virus progressed

  • Established, from scratch, seven new large-scale manufacturing facilities at:
  • – Airbus AMRC Cymru in Broughton
  • – Ford in Dagenham
  • – GKN Aerospace in Luton and Cowes
  • – McLaren in Woking
  • – Rolls-Royce in Filton
  • – STI in Hook
  • – As well as restructuring existing sites – Smiths Medical in Luton, and Penlon in Abingdon

  • Ventilator peak production exceeded 400 devices a day, with the shortest time taken to achieve 1,000 ventilators being three days

  • Set-up new parallel supply chains and acquired around 42 million parts and electronic components through a complex logistics network that saw DHL design and implement an end-to-end supply chain in only 10 days

  • Despite global competition for parts and lockdown challenges during the pandemic, the team sourced part from more than 20 countries, with the furthest distance travelled by a single part being 5,226 miles

  • Achieved full MHRA approval for the Penlon ESO 2 device in just three weeks, becoming the first newly adapted ventilator design to be given UK regulatory authorisation and then going on the secure the international quality seal of approval by way of CE marking

  • Recruited and trained a 3,500-strong front-line assembly team in a new age of social distancing, balancing the twin imperatives of speedy delivery with absolute adherence to the regulatory standards needed to ensure patient safety

VentilatorChallengeUK made its last shipment of finished ventilators on Sunday 5 July after which consortium businesses are expected to return to regular production.

What the consortium has achieved in the space of twelve weeks is “nothing short of incredible”, noted Dick Elsy, chairman of VentilatorChallengeUK and CEO of High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

He continued: “I am immensely proud of the energy, determination and ingenuity shown by every business in responding to this national need.

“Together, we have helped ensure the NHS has always had access to the number of ventilators it needs, and we’re pleased to have also contributed to building a resilient stock should ventilators be required in the UK in the future.

“This coalition of the very best of this country’s people and capability across different sectors has truly showcased the strength of the manufacturing industry in the UK.

“While we have now delivered all the required ventilators to the NHS, the consortium is looking to capture lessons learned and share them across the engineering community – and with government – as key tools to help UK industry get back on its feet after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed.”

Dick Elsy and Brain Holliday, head of Siemens Digital Industries UK&I, both featured as guests of The Manufacturer Podcast to discuss VentilatorChallengeUK’s remarkable achievements and the strategies that enabled them: 

The Manufacturer Podcast: Dick Elsy on leading VentilatorChallengeUK

The Manufacturer Podcast: Brian Holliday on the model for industrial collaboration