ANCA has become a partner in an important consortium supported by the Victorian and Commonwealth Government to manufacture ventilators to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is a realisation on how much Australia needs its own robust advanced manufacturing sector. Coming to the aid of a medical system crushed world-wide by the COVID-19 pandemic, ANCA has joined the NOTUS Emergency Ventilator Program, a Grey Innovation-led initiative to rapidly manufacture sophisticated ventilators locally. Banding together with other Australian manufacturing businesses, the consortium harnesses various industry capabilities to make more ventilators locally.

“As a business we don’t normally manufacture parts for machines such as ventilators,” said Pat Boland, ANCA Co-Founder and Managing Director. “We were approached to join the initiative and were able to utilise our machine shop to manufacture components and skilled labour to build key sub-assemblies of the ventilators.”

ANCA has been one of Australia’s most successful advanced manufacturers for forty plus years – designing, manufacturing and exporting 99% of its highly accurate CNC grinders to the global market. It supplies to a wide range of industries, including the medical industry, and has been classified in the US as an essential industry because so many of its customers are manufacturing medical components.

With the collapse of the automotive sector in Australia, there has been a growing skills gap in advanced manufacturing, which leaves the country reliant on importing expertise and products. A thriving Australian manufacturing sector requires not only production, but an understanding of engineering, design, systems and assembly of components which all require specialist skills and infrastructure.

“The Second World War led to enormous innovation in Australia as the supply chain to the defence forces was severed with the fall of Singapore,” Boland added. “This led to an incredible commitment to establishing a home-grown defence industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has strong parallels with this scenario, where as a country it was impossible to import protective equipment or ventilators for the health workers. We want to be confident that we have a workforce who can produce what we need.

“Luckily it seems like we wont need thousands more ventilators, but if we had, I think all Australians would appreciate being able to source these locally rather than rely on importing the technology.

“We have been fortunate to receive Government support over the years, for example grants from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) to invest in research & development – and the payoff is now, where we can pivot to meet a different need. It means that we have a team who have the expertise to take on this task.”

Around the world it is predicted that total demand for ventilators could run into the tens of thousands, with existing manufacturers unable to meet demand. With production already in progress to meet tight timeframes; ANCA has hit the ground running, with dedicated machinists willingly working weekends and over the Easter break to make parts and help combat coronavirus. Ventilators are highly complex medical devices; the technology requires rigorous manufacturing and assembly standards to ensure viability for patients.

Mark Patman, Production Operations Manager at ANCA, explains: “With an extremely tight timeframe, we’ve jumped in and started manufacturing the parts; it’s a team effort across the business to get it done. As a well-established global business, a lot of the processes required to deliver this type of project are already in place at ANCA. We can leverage off all our systems to be able to deliver the project.”

ANCA is utilising a cross-functional team comprising manufacturing, supply chain, project management, stores logistics, and safety to support this crucial work. Demonstrating agility in moving from machine tools to ventilators ANCA already has a working relationship with the AMGC and is pleased to be collaborating with Grey Innovation to ensure that Australia does not have a shortfall in ventilators, critical for our COVID-19 response. Answering the call from the Australian Government, rapid production will continue to supply contracts and contribute to the coronavirus crisis strategy.