Our voice of business this month is:

Neil Morgan, Managing Director of Good Fabrications Ltd (GoodFabs).

I was still in bed on the morning of Sunday April 7th when the phone rang. It was Jane Rampin, an old friend, asking whether we could help Bucks NHS Trust make a missing part for some much-needed ventilators that had arrived at Stoke Mandeville hospital.

The ventilators in question can be used anywhere, but there are many types of connectors that connect to oxygen and air supplies and these vary by country. These ventilators had arrived with no oxygen connectors. As MD of GoodFabs – a long time supplier of performance exhausts to Formula 1 – Jane thought I might be able to help.

Facing a quiet week with a 30-person engineering company on full furlough, it was a chance to help the NHS and by midday Sunday we had physical parts to copy, but only for 12 hours as they were taken from a working ventilator.

The process required to copy the parts involved a laser scanning arm used in our inspection department and someone to translate the results into CAD drawings.

With all the correct dimensions a machinist would be able turn and mill the connector from medical grade stainless steel. We also needed to design a tool that could also be quickly machined to facilitate the fabrication of 40 brackets that would secure the oxygen connectors in place. We also had to make the specialist bolts that would secure them.

Two weeks prior we had been forced to close Good Fabrications following a very real outbreak of COVID-19 in the workshop. One of our staff had been to the Cheltenham Festival and returned to work on Monday 16th March. He called in sick with Corona Virus symptoms the next day. Every day for the following week a new staff member fell ill. By the following week we had shut up shop and sent everyone home.

That Sunday I made a few calls to the staff who would be needed to volunteer their time at short notice to help out and received resounding support from everyone, apart from one fabricator who was still suffering from the virus and felt as if he’d been hit by a train.

By Sunday night one of our Inspection team had scanned and drawn up the parts in CAD. By Monday we had the tool designed that was needed to fabricate the bracket. On Monday and Tuesday the oxygen connectors and bolts were machined, and the brackets pressed out and drilled. On Wednesday lunchtime – 72 hours after having received the part to copy – 40 sets of connectors and brackets were delivered to Stephen Squires, the Clinical Engineer at Bucks NHS Trust who was responsible for deploying the ventilators into the Stoke Mandeville ICU wards prior to the Easter weekend. The whole job had involved six staff who volunteered their time whenever it was needed over a period of three days.

Our involvement with the clinical engineering team at Stoke Mandeville continues. Following the oxygen shortage at Watford General Hospital in early April we were asked to build a prototype of a discontinued non-invasive ventilator known for its reliability and low oxygen use. Although the present demand for ventilators has passed, this device may well be brought back into production for use in future pandemic planning, a second wave or for requirements in countries that are only now feeling the full impact of COVID-19.

Meanwhile F1 is back on track with 8 races planned for July and August so the workshop is almost back to peak production. However, newly announced budget caps in Formula 1 designed to make the sport more sustainable may reduce demand for GoodFabs’ services in the years to come. As a result, we may yet find ourselves returning to explore performance engineering opportunities in the medical business.

For more information on GoodFabs please visit: www.goodfabs.com