General Motors gets assist from 3 NHL teams in making coronavirus face masks

Sven Gustafson



General Motors has been lending a hand battling the coronavirus while automobile production is on pause by making ventilators for hospitals and face masks for frontline workers. It partnered with a medical device manufacturer to launch ventilator manufacturing at a plant in Indiana, but its ramp-up of face masks hinged on a key assist from the National Hockey League.

The Detroit Free Press reports that GM turned to the Detroit Red Wings when it hit a snag in its plans to mass-produce the medical face masks. And the Red Wings, in turn, tapped rivals the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers for additional help.

According to the story, GM quickly realized it faced an obstacle to its goal of producing 1.5 million masks per month: disinfecting the masks, the last stage before they are packaged and shipped.

GM had a big stainless steel sterilizing cabinet that could disinfect 2,000 face masks at a time. But the cabinet reportedly runs for 20-minute cycles and needs resetting in between loads, which slowed the pace considerably. GM President Mark Reuss, however, knew that sports teams used ozone sanitizers to disinfect equipment after games, so he dialed up Red Wings owner Christopher Ilitch, who called the team’s equipment manager. Who in turn called up a local hockey equipment shop and lined up further equipment from his peers in Chicago and Philly.

GM is now making 3 million face masks per month from the Warren Transmission Plant near Detroit. It’s another example of the clever tactics automakers have used to pivot to producing medical equipment to fight the coronavirus. Read the full Freep story here.