GM Fairfax employees working in Indiana to make ventilators

Posted at 7:27 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 23:46:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Dozens of General Motors employees who volunteered to work at the company’s Kokomo, Indiana, facility will soon be heading back to the Kansas City area as the Fairfax Assembly and Stamping Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, prepares to resume normal operations.

AJ Johnson was one of 37 Fairfax employees who traveled to Kokomo to help produce ventilators.

“Going from cars to ventilators, very different," she said. "Back home, I do quality engineering work and here we’ve worked on assembling some of the smallest parts that you can imagine."

GM entered a $489.4 million contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to produce 30,000 ventilators by the end of August.

David Stillwell arrived in Kokomo as the company transformed the factory and received shipment of all the parts needed to make the ventilators.

“In a two week time frame, we took basically an office complex and turned it into a production facility," Stillwell said. "Beginning in week three, we were running test units to validate the standardized work was right, and week four we were cranking them out. It was really an amazing experience to see how quickly the system could be mobilized.”

Now, he's back home as the Fairfax plant ramps production operations back up June 1, after GM suspended vehicle manufacturing in late March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

When employees return, safety protocols will be different.

“There are a number of things that have changed just in the daily on-goings up in here in Kokomo that are going to come home,” Johnson said.

Employees will have to stand at least six feet apart and go through a health screening, including answering a questionnaire and getting a temperature check, before entering the facility each day. Employees also will be required to wear glasses and masks, except while eating or drinking.

In its safety playbook, GM said it is “evaluating ventilation systems in all locations” to ensure proper airflow through the system without propelling potential airborne droplets.

“It’s definitely different," Stillwell said. "Our new normal will have to be implemented."