The UK, like many parts of the world, has been constrained by the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. However, in such a time of need, UK industry has stepped up once again and continues to play a key role in the fight back

At the end of February and beginning of March growing media reports started to come out of Europe and Asia warning that Covid-19 was taking a worrying grip on people and businesses, particularly in countries such as China, Italy and Spain.

Fast forward to mid-March and that worrying grip had made its way across the Channel to the UK. Covid-19 cases began to emerge among the population, while in industry, major events, such as MACH (www.is.gd/efobaf), Plant & Asset Management (www.is.gd/nibiwi), and the CV Show (www.is.gd/tojugo), were either postponed or cancelled to minimise the risk of the virus spreading further.

The UK government had to step up to lead the country and a national rally ensued; people were told to stay at home, educational and social facilities were closed, while ‘key’ workers, including NHS and other emergency service staff, postal workers and refuse collectors, continued their duties.

However, from mid-March through to mid-April, there was also a flurry of activity from within the UK engineering and manufacturing sector as businesses looked to adjust their activities, services and products to aid in the war on Coronavirus. Within Operations Engineer’s sphere of coverage and interests came new construction activities, such as the development of new Nightingale Hospitals, and remote monitoring of assets and lone workers, as well as training and safety initiatives, ventilator production and manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face shields and visors.

How best then to capture this collective national effort that has not seen since World War II? Breadth, rather than depth, seems most appropriate, so Operations Engineer has created this reference source – taken from a variety of media and press reports – to shine a light on the many companies and industrial organisations that have been involved in the fight back, while also detailing some of the announcements made by UK government and NHS England.

This reference source is not the whole picture, and Operations Engineer apologises to the many companies that have played a part but are not covered here. Each brief has been divided into the weeks leading up to the Easter break and the week post-Easter, as peak Covid-19 patient numbers approached. URL links for each brief are also given and can be entered into your internet search bar. (Note: some links may take you to web pages not associated with Operations Engineer).

Week commencing Monday 16 March 2020

- Prime Minister Boris Johnson asks people to work from home, if they can. “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel,” he says in a televised broadcast to the nation. “We need people to start working from home where they possibly can. And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.” (www.is.gd/gufiwe)

- Amid growing concerns over the shortage of critical equipment required to treat some Coronavirus patients, the government asks whether UK manufacturers can turn their hands to the production and assembly of ventilators. With the NHS expected to require many more ventilators than the 5,000 devices thought to be in circulation, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to engineering firms about how they might support the production of essential medical equipment. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) asks prospective companies to log their interest in helping via a website (site now closed). (www.is.gd/kozihi)

- Within days, more than 60 manufacturing companies respond to the government’s call for help in producing ventilators to combat the coronavirus outbreak. (www.is.gd/awuduf)

- The Copper Rivet distillery at Chatham Maritime in Kent starts to explore the production of a sanitiser to alleviate the shortage in the wake of Covid-19. (www.is.gd/huhaki)

- The Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils a series of measures to support people, jobs and businesses, including a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. (www.is.gd/vidudu)

- Trade organisation UKWA (UK Warehousing Association) steps forward to offer temporary or permanent warehousing services to companies struggling to fulfil orders. (www.is.gd/ovadox)

Week commencing Monday 23 March 2020

- Prime Minister Boris Johnson tells the UK to ‘Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives’. “I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home,” he says in another television broadcast. (www.is.gd/epuyun)

- NHS England announces that a new hospital will open to provide support for thousands of patients with Coronavirus. The NHS Nightingale Hospital based at the ExCeL conference centre in East London will initially provide up to 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen. (www.is.gd/oyuwiw)

- The Economic & Construction Market Review from Barbour ABI shows that the total value of construction contract awards across Great Britain in February 2020 was £6.5 billion based on a three-month rolling average (an increase of 16.9% on January and is 19.9% higher than February 2019). Chief economist Tom Hall explains that with the UK Budget announcement, promised investment should see contract awards hold up, before adding: “However, despite the proposed funding, with the rapid spread of Coronavirus across the globe, the trend is likely to be downwards from here and significant government action will be needed to support businesses and citizens as the social and economic impacts are felt.” (www.is.gd/enocax)

- Communications specialist ANT Telecom announces free availability of automated monitoring service Aspect247 to safeguard employees. Aspect247 is said to be a fully automated monitoring system that employers can use to keep lone workers safe. (www.is.gd/qusebu)

- Composites and advanced materials precision slitting company Bindatex, based in Bolton, reconfigures its production to begin die cutting discs for filters to assist with the urgent production of life-saving ventilators for the NHS (pictured, below). (www.is.gd/qusebu)

- Additive manufacturing firm Stratasys announces a global mobilisation of the company’s 3D printing resources and expertise to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, with an initial focus on providing thousands of disposable face shields for use by medical personnel. (www.is.gd/qusebu)

- Manufacturer INEOS reveals plans to produce 1 million hand sanitisers per month at a plant near Middlesborough to help with a European shortage. These will be produced according to World Health Organisation specifications and be specifically designed to kill bacteria and viruses. (www.is.gd/zetepa)

- UK-based temperature measurement specialist AMETEK Land releases a fever screening thermal imaging system designed for human body temperature measurement. The vIRalert 2 fixed thermal imaging system is said to provide an accurate and remote surface measurement of body temperature, automatically alerting the operator to elevated temperatures, according to the company. (www.is.gd/uwigup)

- Safety barrier manufacturer A-SAFE launches a new safety helpline to support UK manufacturers. It offers remote advice for installing and adapting workplace safety solutions to reflect current Covid-19 circumstances. (www.is.gd/kiheli)

- A collective is formed between Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, BWT Racing Point F1 Team, Haas F1 Team, McLaren F1 Team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, Renault DP World F1 Team and ROKiT Williams Racing to support ‘Project Pitlane’, part of a UK industry-wide effort to manufacture and deliver respiratory devices. It focuses on three workstreams: reverse engineering existing medical devices; support in scaling the production of existing ventilator designs; and the rapid design and prototype manufacture of a new device for certification and subsequent production. (www.is.gd/ayuros)

- NHS England reveals two new NHS Nightingale Hospitals will open in Birmingham and Manchester. The hospital based at the NEC in Birmingham will start with up to 500 beds equipped with the capacity to increase beds up to 2,000. The hospital based at the Manchester Central Complex will provide up to 500 beds but could expand further to 1,000 beds. (www.is.gd/avexan)

Week commencing Monday 30 March 2020

- The Guardian reports (29 March) that production of VentilatorChallengeUK devices codenamed Project Oyster (tweaked Penlon design) and Project Penguin (Smiths Medical design) will commence this week. The paper says the UK has 8,175 ventilators but that government has called for 30,000 to be made in weeks. (www.is.gd/dawabe)

- The VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium led by Dick Elsy, CEO of High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, is officially announced. Companies in the consortium receive formal orders from the government in excess of 10,000 units. Production will rapidly increase from hundreds a month to thousands a month to fulfil 10,000 units. (www.is.gd/udixic)

- JCB gets poised to re-start production at a factory closed as a result of the crisis in order to join the national effort to manufacture ventilators. The factory, which makes cabs for JCB diggers, gets mobilised to make special steel housings for a brand new design of ventilator from Dyson. (www.is.gd/quvaxi)

- Derbyshire-based 3D-printing specialist SYS Systems puts its range of 3D printers at its Additive Manufacturing Centre HQ to work, with the aim of creating as many masks as possible. It also contacts customers who own the relevant 3D printers required to do the work and sends them Stratasys-approved designs and instructions. (www.is.gd/egexev)

- In-Comm Training, which operates three technical academies, announces that it will be delivering all courses via a virtual platform, ensuring its learners still have access to industry experienced trainers and assessors. (www.is.gd/eriwit)

- The British Contract Manufacturers and Packers Association (BCMPA) praises the actions of UK government agencies in relaxing rules over the manufacture of hand sanitiser. Due to a spike in demand, it is reported that the HSE is temporarily allowing hand sanitisers containing Propan-2-ol to be sold in the UK, and HMRC has prioritised applications to use denatured alcohol in hand sanitising products. (www.is.gd/ezokel)

- Enterprise office solutions provider Y Soft Corporation uses its 3D printers to produce protective face shields and binder strips for hospitals across the world. The face shields - which are being produced using the Y Soft be3D eDee printers, designed for the education sector – are being donated for free to hospitals to help protect medical workers. (www.is.gd/egexev)

- London, Manchester and Birmingham field hospitals look for volunteer professional technicians and engineers for assistance. The Royal Academy of Engineering is asking for auxiliary volunteers to support the Covid-19 emergency response. (www.is.gd/izenet)

- INEOS begins UK production of one million bottles of hand sanitiser per month. Free issue to the NHS commences. (www.is.gd/ehulon)

- Vehicle safety and compliance registration scheme FORS announces that all its classroom-based manager training courses will be held as online webinars. (www.is.gd/viceya)

- JCB answers a call from the University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) for donations of vital supplies of PPE. More than 8,000 pairs of gloves and a large quantity of face masks are gifted by JCB World Parts Centre at Uttoxeter to the hospital as it gears up for an influx of patients. (www.is.gd/motipi)

- Chris Rason, MD of temporary power and temperature control specialist Aggreko Northern Europe, pledges to prioritise all equipment for healthcare, utilities, food & beverage and pharmaceuticals companies in the UK. (www.is.gd/gaxofa)

- Industrial automation and electronic repair service Kontroltek starts to provide a faster turnaround on repairs for manufacturers that are supporting the NHS until the Covid-19 crisis is over. According to the company, businesses can get their industrial automation part repaired and returned in three days or less at no extra charge – instead of the standard 10-day turnaround, if genuinely needed. (www.is.gd/rujexo)

- In light of the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) releases a joint statement on Friday 3 April 2020. “We know many workers, union reps and employers have questions and concerns about safe working – especially for those continuing to work away from home,” it says. “This joint statement is intended to clarify the position.” (www.is.gd/ufuzan)

- The first of the government's emergency field hospitals to treat Coronavirus patients opens in London's ExCel centre. The temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital is able to hold as many as 4,000 patients. (www.is.gd/urikif)

- It is revealed that new NHS Nightingale Hospitals will be built in Bristol and Harrogate. (www.is.gd/efujoy)

- The Copper Rivet distillery at Chatham Maritime in Kent says that the first batch of its sanitiser will soon be released and made available to the Met and other forces before being made more widely available to the public. (www.is.gd/gopeka)

- The Institution of Engineering Designers (IED) reveals it is leading on a project, in conjunction with Keele University, to bring engineers and designers together to answer immediate challenges as set by NHS workers, patients, carers, the elderly and other sectors who may need engineering and design solutions as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. (www.is.gd/fevita)

- The government unveils a £20m fund to build UK resilience following the Coronavirus outbreak. (www.is.gd/xasiku)

- During a television broadcast on 3 April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock says: “This advice is not a request; it is an instruction. Stay at home. Protect lives and then you will be doing your part.” (www.is.gd/nakipi)

Week commencing Monday 6 April 2020

- As businesses are being directed to limit site work due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, the need remains to ensure that assets continue to operate across a range of industrial sectors. To support this effort, ABB works to ensure access is given to field operators and service engineers who cannot be on-site by delivering control room livestreams, operational insights, process data and plant key performance indicators to users at home. (www.is.gd/woxala)

- Engineering, management and development consultancy Mott MacDonald reveals that it has been supporting NHS England and NHS Improvement to deliver the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London by providing technical, engineering and project management services with its project partner Archus. (www.is.gd/pasata)

- Temporary power supplier Aggreko offers the UK government up to 1,300 small generator units (example, pictured below) to support the set-up of Covid-19 testing sites across the UK. The firm offers its available fleet of small canopy generators, which can be remotely monitored without the need for an engineer to be physically present. (www.is.gd/eroget)

- Business Secretary Alok Sharma says manufacturing is critical part of the economy. (www.is.gd/foyaso)

- It is revealed that new NHS Nightingale Hospitals will open in Sunderland and Exeter. This brings the total to seven confirmed NHS Nightingale Hospitals in a matter of weeks. (www.is.gd/etaquj)

- FleetCheck posts free Coronavirus video guides for fleets. (www.is.gd/qagepa)

Post-Easter break (Week Commencing Monday 13 April 2020)

- A fund set up to provide PPE for medical teams and district nursing staff smashes its £20,000 target. Members of Unite, GMB, and Prospect unions at Sellafield in Cumbria, who launched the community fundraising campaign, reveal the target had been hit, with £20,274 raised by noon on Easter Sunday and a new aim of raising £30,000 created. (www.is.gd/mevevi)

- Wirework manufacturer Craven & Co reveals that it is making and distributing 800 intravenous (IV) drip stands every day. It has delivered 4,000 IV stands to the ExCeL in London and is currently manufacturing a further 8,500 for the Nightingale Hospitals in Harrogate, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. (www.is.gd/pokura)

- As the 3D printing community steps up to support the fight against Covid-19, BOFA International meets growing demand for its fume and dust extraction technology. The company continues to manufacture and distribute extraction equipment, filters and spares to ensure that 3D printers can operate safely when producing healthcare equipment. (www.is.gd/quruqu)

- The NHS invites Captain Tom Moore to be the guest of honour at the official opening of the new Nightingale hospital in Harrogate as a way of honouring the Yorkshire native’s fundraising efforts. The 99-year-old war veteran, a former British Military Officer, raised £28 million for the NHS, despite aiming to raise £1,000 by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. He is set to praise NHS workers via video link at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Yorkshire and Humber Hospital on 21 April. (www.is.gd/ayopim)

- Research materials supplier Goodfellow supplies materials that are being used to make protective equipment for frontline workers. Its latest donation sees 130 kilos of polypropylene coil donated to Stamford School in Lincolnshire, UK, where Design Technology teachers are voluntarily manufacturing 1,000 protective face masks a day . (www.is.gd/ihubow)

- The first newly-adapted ventilator design from the government’s Ventilator Challenge receives regulatory approval and is ready to be sent to the NHS frontline to support Coronavirus patients. The Prima ES02 model comes from Penlon, which has worked with the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium that includes a number of groups, including High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Ford, F1 teams and Siemens. (www.is.gd/bacoqu)

- Radius Telematics says that it has seen an increase in the theft of plant and commercial vehicles since the Coronavirus lockdown, as thieves appear to take advantage of unattended locations. (www.is.gd/oguxur)

- RS Components donates PLA filament to the National 3D Printing Society (N3DPS) to enable front-line health workers to quickly access PPE. Through its DesignSpark engineering platform, it urges members with access to a 3D printer to help. RS also reveals it has developed a 3D printing farm in Corby that also aims to produce visors. (www.is.gd/osujam)

- Staff at the NHS Nightingale hospital in London successfully treated and discharged their first Coronavirus patient. A second man is also discharged. (www.is.gd/maweco)

Note: This article is just a snapshot of the activity seen within the UK engineering and manufacturing sector between mid-March and mid-April. Of course, updates have since followed, for example, Dyson revealed at the end of April that its ventilator is ‘not now required in the UK’ (www.is.gd/kaxico), and the Nightingale Hospital in London has been placed on standby (www.is.gd/axuyin). For more industry-related updates and news on the fight back against Covid-19, visit the Operations Engineer website at: www.operationsengineer.org.uk