Linamar's CEO says the company has so far manufactured 500 ventilators and has delivered the parts to various companies to build tens of thousands more.
On Tuesday Premier Doug Ford was at Linamar's new iHub building on Woodlawn Road to announce $2.5 million in funding to the company for its production of ventilators and ventilator parts.
Vic Fideli, Ontario's Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, delivered the news at a media event.
The money comes through the province's Ontario Together Fund and will be used to support the retooling of its assembly line to manufacture ventilator components to help produce 10,000 Ontario-made e700 ventilators.
"We saw in the spring the global demand for these devices, it was impossible to get them, so we called on Ontario manufacturing giants, companies like Linamar. They stepped up and today, a few short months later ... I'm proud to announce that we now have life-saving ventilators being made right here in Ontario.
"I hope that we will never have to use them, but thanks to the partnership, we will be prepared for the worst."
After the press conference Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz told GuelphToday the project to take on the premier's challenge for companies to boost produciton of ventilators was an important one, not just for the company but also its employees.
“During the darkest days of having everything shut down globally it was really nice to — not just be able to do this and help people out — but it was a real morale boost for our people to have something positive to focus on in a time frame that was kind of negative," said Hasenfratz. “It was a great morale booster in a tough year.”
To date, Linamar has manufactured about 500 of the 1,000-plus ventilators it is contracted to build for Thornhill Medical. Linamar is also machining parts for four other companies who will then build their own ventilators, including GM Ventecc, O-Two Medical and Bombardier.
In total, Hasenfratz estimates Linamar will machine parts for more than 100,000 ventilators that will be built in the U.S. and Canada.
Fideli said Thornhill Medical e700 ventilators are among "the most critical and coveted" pieces of equipment for helping COVID patients.
"What stands out about this project is Linamar's quick response to pave the way for domestically-produced medical equipment," Fideli said, adding that this project helps the province be more self-sufficient and better prepared for the future.
Hasenfratz said in an interview the e700 is more than just a ventilator, it's more akin to an intensive care unit in a box.
"It’s like a patient life support monitoring system so you can ut one of those units on a patient’s bed in a hallway and it would be like they are in an ICU — it’s tracking all kinds of things in addition to providing ventilation," she said.
Linamar began making ventillator parts and other pandemic-related products, such as an ultraviolet disinfection device, soon after the pandemic gained traction in Canada.
The company's new iHub building opened just prior to the pandemic. It was never intended to be a production floor for ventilators.
“We call it the iHub or innovation hub and it is a technology centre. It was not build for production at all but we needed a space to do this so it worked out well," Hasenfratz told GuelphToday.
The auto parts manufacturer was also looking for new revenue streams, as sales for the three months ending June 30 totalled $923.6 million — down from roughly $2.09 billion in the same period the previous year as car sales plumetted around the world.
In her remarks during the press conference, Hasenfratz said the addition of ventilator part production allowed the company to bring back 600 laid off workers.
"We quickly zeroed in on the ventilator segment as one we thought we could play a role in," Hasenfratz said. "Literally, within two weeks, we were in production."
Hasenfratz said the quick response was a credit to Linamar's culture that allows it to react quickly to any situation and a work ethos of "just work until you get the job done."
Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie was also on hand for the announcement and got some love from the premier.
"This guy's a champion, I'm telling ya', he's an absolute champion," Ford said. "There's a lot companies coming to Guelph and I haven't even told you about Mayor about all these other companies I hear about coming to Guelph."