Companies Retool Operations to Assist in Coronavirus Fight

by Barry Render

From a Kentucky distillery to a French bluejeans maker, companies are retooling to produce medical equipment for overloaded hospitals and slow the spread of coronavirus, writes The Wall Street Journal (March 19, 2020). Christian Dior perfumes has started making hand sanitizer. A car-parts company is producing hygienic masks. Luxury hotels are becoming makeshift quarantine shelters. An earthmoving-equipment maker and other manufacturers are examining whether they can help make ventilators, the key life-support machines.

As the pandemic grips the West, global demand for a range of goods and services has faltered—from handbags and tourism to cars. That has freed capacity for industries to produce medical equipment in short supply. World leaders have framed the crisis as a wartime struggle, and hark back to World War II, when nations on a much larger scale repurposed factories to make weapons and supplies. “We are at war,” says the French President.

Both GM and Ford are examining whether they could put their idled factories to work making medical equipment. Tesla’s Elon Musk stated: “We will make ventilators if there is a shortage.” The German government is considering redeploying unemployed workers such as waiters to harvest its fields. French whiskey giant Pernod Ricard is making sanitizer at plants in Kentucky, W. Virginia, and Texas.

The French bluejeans producer, 1083, saw demand plummet when stores across the country were forced to shut last week. Within hours of the government proclaiming a shortage of sanitary masks, 1083’s sewing machines were stitching together masks. “It’s much easier to make masks than jeans,” says the CEO. With tourism drying up, Israel has repurposed two luxury hotels to serve as quarantine shelters, the oceanfront Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv, and the Dan Hotel overlooking Jerusalem’s ancient skyline.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

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