FLAT ROCK, Mich.—Ford Motor Co. plans to build respirators using paid UAW volunteers assigned to an idled assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich., beginning the week of April 6, according to the union local representing those workers.
The auto maker will build respirators on three shifts at a building near the factory, according to a March 31 post from UAW Local 3000.
Ford said last week it was partnering with 3M to build respirators but didn't disclose details. Flat Rock workers typically build the Mustang and Lincoln Continental, but all of Ford's North American plants have been temporarily shuttered to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
It's unclear how many paid UAW volunteers Ford will use to build respirators.
"This is a call to action for a cause that transcends everyday comforts," according to a transcript of a robocall to workers. "It is an opportunity to make a bad situation better and help our medical professionals, first responders and all affected by COVID-19."
Ford, in a statement late March 31, did not confirm the details released by union officials.
"Ford is humbled to work with 3M, GE Healthcare and the UAW to manufacture medical equipment to help those on the front lines fighting COVID-19," a spokeswoman said. "We'll have more to share about this in the future."
Ford is working with 3M to boost output of respirators 3M is producing while simultaneously building its own respirators using a makeshift design that includes fans from F-150 pickup seats, hoods from assembly plant paint shops, 3D-printed parts and portable-tool battery packs that could allow the devices to run for up to eight hours.
Some components and subassemblies are being made at Ford's advanced manufacturing center near Detroit in Redford Township, Mich.
Ford said it initially would be able to make up to 1,000 respirators per month, helping 3M boost production of them tenfold.
Ford also is working with GE Healthcare to build 50,000 ventilators between late April and early July at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Mich. In addition, the automaker is building face shields at a rate of roughly 100,000 per week at subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing's center in Plymouth, Mich.