As COVID-19 has become a pandemic, the lack of critical medical equipment is hampering the ability of medical professionals to treat the severe respiratory conditions the virus causes. If you look at how COVID-19 expresses itself in the vulnerable population, it manifests in the lungs and compromises lung function. The first step is to put patients on oxygen. If that doesn’t suffice, they are put on a ventilator to help facilitate the oxygen exchange. However, there is a critical shortage of ventilators to meet the surge of people needing intensive care.
To give some perspective on the severity of the shortage of critical medical equipment, there are about 20,000 ventilators sold in the U. S. annually, and it is estimated that we may need up to 500,000. And that’s only the U.S. That’s 25 years of demand all at once. Processes like 3D printing work for some custom components or small batch items, but not for the kind of scale needed for producing complex products. When borders get shut down and supply chains get regionalized, the availability of parts is constrained.
In response, governments and companies around the world are calling for help accelerating ventilator production. Flex is a supplier to many of these manufacturers. In the last month, we have reached out to many ventilator producers and other critical equipment manufacturers to offer support. As of today, we have five confirmed ventilator product programs that we will be ramping quickly to help address the massive need. We are also aggressively increasing volumes of our customers’ existing critical care product programs.
We have been engaged in supporting the COVID-19 response beginning in China. Our focus was on enacting our emergency response plans, protecting employees and securing our supply chain. Additionally, we continue to prepare to help healthcare companies as the COVID-19 situation has spread globally. We are working with our suppliers and partners to ensure we can mobilize quickly to meet the regional needs for manufacturing capacity for a wide array of products needed to combat COVID-19.
Many governments are looking for local solutions to accommodate the production of ventilators in their own regions. We are helping our healthcare partners scale up manufacturing in required geographies and have formulated plans to produce critical products in the U.S. and in Europe to meet regional needs.
We are helping our customers in a variety of ways. We are identifying alternate supply chain sources to relieve bottlenecks. We can help meet the need for radical capacity expansion by expanding manufacturing to our factories. Because of our global footprint, which serves the medical industry and many other markets, we have capabilities and capacities that are unparalleled in the industry.
Flex has a very strong, global supply chain. We have extensive knowledge and deep relationships with key suppliers which has allowed us to be very successful in securing components for critical products. Every supplier recognizes the importance of the current situation and will prioritize and support medical needs in any way possible.
We are in an unprecedented time and we must do all that we can to contribute to supporting our medical and healthcare customers who are saving lives every day. We must act quickly and be creative because every minute counts. It is a time of intense collaboration and problem solving. It brings out the best in our teams and in our work. It is our obligation and responsibility to bring the full power of our organization to help patients in need.