Suburban companies contributing to increased manufacture of ventilators
Tech companies in Arlington Heights and Bartlett are among those in the suburbs contributing their expertise to General Motors' stepped-up efforts to manufacture ventilators on its repurposed assembly lines.
Faspro Techologies Inc. in Arlington Heights is making a particular part for the ventilators, while Assurance Technologies Inc. in Bartlett has provided machines and engineers to measure the precision of the newly made devices.
Lake Barrington resident Chuck Drews, co-founder of Faspro Technologies, said the precision sheet-metal fabricator has more than 200 high-end companies among its clients, for whom it makes prototypes and other equipment.
The firm has been called upon to make the fan bracket guards for a type of Ventec Life Systems ventilator, the production of which has been prioritized by the respiratory virus outbreak, Drews said.
The parts are contracted to be made through December, but the production could go on beyond that if demand comes from outside the U.S., he added.
The impact on the company has been sudden and significant. Not only has it had to increase its capital outlay and take a bigger gamble than usual on being paid on time, but the work for other clients -- some of whom are seeing a slowdown from the crisis -- had to be shuffled around without being abandoned, Drews said.
On top of all that is the change to workplace conditions. These include staggering shifts to minimize the risk of infection, the mandatory use of masks, and other protocols that make the assembly area a clean-room environment, said fellow co-founder Igor Shkarovsky of Prospect Heights, who's been stuck in Spain since travel restrictions began.
It's been only a week since Assurance Technologies in Bartlett got a call about the immediate need for a particular kind of measuring equipment for the new ventilators, Vice President of Operations Ian Main of South Elgin said.
While such devices can potentially take three to six months to build for a new client, the company just happened to have two completed ones in its warehouse. No sooner had Main confirmed this on the phone than he was told a semi truck from Motion Industries in Kokomo, Indiana was on its way to pick them up. And Assurance's own nearby suppliers were able to provide all the accessories needed that day.
While that truck was still on its way to Kokomo, the Bartlett company was called again by GM wanting a third machine. There was sufficient demo equipment in the lab to put one together once computers and monitors from ConsultNet Inc. in St. Charles could be added.
Even now, Assurance has a pair of engineers in Kokomo setting up the equipment and training staff there on how to operate it, Main said.
Both Drews and Main said area residents shouldn't be surprised by how much of the know-how for these needs is right here.
The Northwest suburbs boasts the largest concentration of such specialized manufacturing in the world, Drews said.
"It's because of the resources of people, and the work ethic," he added.
The root of the phenomenon is probably the region's strategic location, Main said.
"It's probably due to the ability to get things in and out of our areas quickly," he said.