Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, IFS has been checking in on our customers to find out how they are coping, and if their IFS solutions and services are delivering what they need. As Managing Director of IFS’s UK & Ireland business, I’m fortunate enough to interact with customers on a daily basis on topics ranging from supply chain management, manufacturing, construction and engineering, and field service provision. The common denominator that I’ve found is that they are all concerned with the safety and wellbeing of their people, the sustainability of their business, and what they can do to help.
While all businesses are feeling the impact of the coronavirus, some are better positioned than others to help alleviate the dire situation facing many healthcare facilities in the UK. Long-standing IFS customer COBA Group is one of those companies actively fighting the effects of the virus.
Stepping up to the plate
For more than 50 years, COBA has been developing and delivering thermoplastic solutions to customers. Through its subsidiary, Copely, the company been developing and extruding tube and hose solutions, to meet the demands of the UK market.
Serving a wide variety of industries, when Covid-19 sent the world into panic, Copely stepped up to the plate. They concentrated their expertise into producing lifesaving breathing equipment; medical gas hoses for breathing anesthetic and breathing applications, as well as cores for medical tapes.
Given their expert experience in producing medical hoses and tubing, Copely was tapped to support a project aimed at manufacturing lifesaving breathing aids. The project is a collaboration between University College London (UCL) engineers, University College London Hospital (UCLH) clinicians and industry partner Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, the Formula One engine manufacturer.
The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure breathing aid, or CPAP for short, is a vital piece of equipment in the fight to help Covid-19 patient stay out of intensive care.
Adapting quickly to a new reality
For Copley Plant Director Stephen Walton, the Covid-19 crisis has been a lesson in rapid decision-making and adaptability.
“From March 23 and throughout April, we shut down the majority of our operations, only keeping open lines for medical customers. Although we already made medical products such as medical gas hoses, the volumes of these has increased significantly during the pandemic, particularly with our oxygen medical gas hose being used as the feed hose to the CPAP machines developed by Mercedes F1 and UCL.”
“IFS is an integral part of how we work. We were able to quickly reschedule production around our new plans and create demands for materials. We also had to quickly create new parts, routings and specifications for new products,” Stephen Walton said.
The light at the end of the production line
While the processes that go into manufacturing the oxygen hose are the same as before the coronavirus pandemic, the production line has changed to ensure the health and safety of the staff.
“We have retained a small core workforce in order to keep the medical product running during the shutdown. We are not particularly doing anything differently apart from ensuring spacing between our employees and supplying personal protective equipment throughout our production line.”
Since the UCL-Mercedes CPAP project was announced on April 17, COBA has produced 35,000 meters of medical gas hoses, enough to manufacture some 15,000 units.
“Hopefully these will enable a large number of patients to stay off ventilation and help them to recover from Covid-19. We have also managed to keep all of our medical customers supplied while raising the production levels for these items to satisfy the urgent needs both in the UK and around the world,” Stephen Walton concluded.
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