Automated face mask production line developed in 10 weeks07 September 2020

Siemens and a customer have provided a home-grown production solution to meet the huge demand for face masks, ensuring factories across the country can open their doors and diversify to meet the demand.

Lifting the mask behind the origins of all the face masks entering this country reveals that the UK is in a precarious position when it comes to supply and demand of them. Up until recently, the UK relied on importing the majority of its face masks from the Far East. Covid-19 has decimated supply chains around the globe and the once robust networks ground to a halt. It left manufacturers and suppliers looking at resources on their own doorsteps and sourcing locally.

With an abundance of furloughed staff and capacity in their facilities, one company in the Midlands saw an opportunity to answer the nation’s call for masks and, with Siemens’ help, it has a solution to free-up the gears of industry for businesses all over the UK.

Expert Advanced Manufacturing Technologies is one of the UK’s leading manufacturer of industrial automation systems, assembly tooling, automated assembly, special purpose machinery and single and multi-robotic cells, including robotic assembly. Since the outbreak of the virus, it set to work building and automating a CE approved production line for face masks. The line in question is no bigger than 7m x 3.6m and can produce 80 to 100 masks per minute, or to put it another way, 144,000 per day and over 1m per week.

“This was a challenge that had to be answered,” said Dave Bartell, Expert’s operations director. “Using our partners at Siemens and automation and control distributor Parmley Graham, we have been able to create a fully-automated, CE certified, face mask production line.

“We have been able to bring a large proportion of our furloughed staff back to work, re-skill them and get them working on the development, manufacture and production of these new machines. We’ve shored-up a critical supply line for what will be a mass-consumed item over the coming years.”

Echoing this sentiment, Siemens’ chief technologist, Alan Norbury said: “Led by our approved technology partner Parmley Graham, we’ve helped Expert fast-track a 30-week project and bring a workable fully automated line to market in just 10 weeks. For me, this shows the strength of British ingenuity. I’d urge all manufacturers out there who have furloughed staff and removed products from their facilities to consider installing an Expert face mask line.

“This is a perfect opportunity for open minded business leaders currently struggling in their traditional markets to consider diversifying to the production of face masks. Simple calculations based on current face mask prices, overwhelming demand and the production volume capabilities of the Expert machine would soon reveal that the machine would pay for itself within a matter of months, while retaining staff and contributing to the balance sheet."

William Dalrymple

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