BYD, a Chinese electric vehicle maker backed by Warren Buffett, has unveiled the largest face masks plant aimed at serving the demand in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The plant is now running at full capacity and is able to produce 5 million masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day. This allows the firm to help alleviate severe shortages that have affected hospitals and agencies across China in the face of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
On February 8, the newly-built production lines in one of BYD’s industrial parks in Shenzhen started to produce these critical supplies, with hundreds of staff working both day and night shifts along with machines working around the clock.
In late January, BYD began to assist in the production of masks and disinfection gels to tackle the growing COVID-19 outbreak. A special task force was appointed by BYD Chairman and President Wang Chuanfu, consisting of leaders from different business divisions and more than 3,000 engineers involved in research and development, design, processing and other roles.
The task force moved with incredible speed, and in less than two weeks, it had finished work that normally takes two months to complete. It completed both the R&D and manufacturing process of mask production equipment within seven days, whereas on the market, it would normally take 15 to 30 days to fully manufacture a mask-producing machine. At the same time, BYD also completed the R&D of medical-grade hand sanitizers in six days, which were then shipped to medical staff on the front lines of the epidemic after just eight days.
BYD’s strong R&D capabilities, combined with its manufacturing facilities and creativity, have enabled the firm to mass-produce quality masks in a short period of time, reflecting its unremitting efforts throughout the epidemic. Mask production requires impeccably clean and sterile environments and equipment, and BYD’s dust-free rooms, previously used for the assembly of smartphones, are particularly well-suited for this. During the Spring Festival period, the company was unable to obtain mask-making equipment rapidly enough, so it set about making its own machines. BYD can now make more than a dozen of these machines a day.
“A production line for high-quality face masks requires about 1,300 parts for various gears, chains, and rollers, 90% of which are BYD’s self-made parts,” said Sherry Li, Director General of BYD’s President Office.
Since its founding, BYD has set up a specialized team to conduct R&D and manufacturing for its equipment, and the team has been engaged in the independent R&D and manufacturing of complex production lines and equipment, such as electronics, batteries and new energy vehicles. Its own machining centers, for example, have a variety of high-precision equipment like grinding machines and molds. This collection of hardware, along with the reserve of professional and technical manpower, has given BYD strong capabilities and rich experience in large-scale precision manufacturing over the years.
“For BYD’s electronics business, the high-end mobile phones that we produce have high requirements in terms of quality, waterproofing and other aspects. This also comes with our high standards for molds, automated equipment, manufacturing processes, and more,” said Zhao Jianping, General Manager of BYD’s Quality Division. “In other words, the equipment that we already have offers precision and quality that is much higher than what is commonly required to produce masks.”
According to the Chinese government’s quality inspection department, the quality of BYD’s masks is significantly better than similar masks in the industry.
As a multitude of orders have come after the company announced its production of masks and disinfectants, the most pertinent challenge was the rapid expansion of its production capacity to meet the demand for these much-needed items. With the company making about five to ten new mask-producing machines on a daily basis, the number of masks produced by BYD is increasing at a rate of approximately 300,000 to 500,000 units per day. It currently has a total production capacity of five million masks per day, which is equivalent to a quarter of China’s entire production capacity in early February.