Not enough ventilators, so PSUs and corporates start ramping up production

Prabha Raghavan, Abantika Ghosh, Sandeep Singh
covid 19, coronavirus covid 19, venrilator demand, covid 19 demand for ventilator, ventilator production, indian express

According to industry sources, average demand for ventilators in India is about 8,000 pieces a year. (Representational image)

To ramp up ventilator capacity, not only have state-owned PSUs such as Bharat Electronics been working closely with private medical equipment suppliers, but large Indian corporates such as the Tata Group, Mahindra, and Maruti Suzuki Ltd, too have made quick plans to start production of ventilators.

According to industry sources, average demand for ventilators in India is about 8,000 pieces a year. However, with the number of COVID-19 cases rising, the country might need anywhere between 1,10,000 and 2,20,000 ventilators by May 15 in the worst-case scenario, according to an analysis by think tank Brookings India.

The government is pulling all stops in the procurement of ventilators — Bharat Electronics Ltd, a PSU under the Ministry of Defence, is in the process of manufacturing 30,000, while another 10,000 will come from HLL Lifecare Ltd, a PSU under the Health Ministry. The Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, makers of Train 18, is also attempting to manufacture ventilators.

“We are in the process of procuring adequate ventilators. One PSU is manufacturing 10,000 while Bharat Electricals is manufacturing 30,000,” Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said.

Government sources said there were 14,220 ICU ventilators now (cumulative capacity of state hospitals). In addition to this, in hospitals (mostly state government) dedicated for management of COVID-19 patients, there are about 6,000 ventilators.

Karnataka-based medical equipment supplier Skanray Technologies is working with BEL to simplify the design of ventilators, and also with Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra to fast-track production. The simplified model would help the firm overcome hurdles like sourcing imported components, so that it is able to service a surge in demand.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd has also announced an arrangement with Noida-based AgVa Healthcare to “rapidly” scale up production of ventilators. “The intention is to reach a volume of 10,000 units per month,” the company said in a statement.

Vishwaprasad Alva, Founder and MD, Skanray, said the company can boost its production to 5,000 units in one batch. “Skanray alone cannot scale up production, so we have Bharat Electronics now, which has 10,000 employees and a very large factory in Bangalore. They were one of the first to contact us and offer their facility. Their designers are already in Skanray and production has already been launched there,” Alva said.

“We also have the Mahindra and Mahindra engineering team here... We are working out three different approaches to respond to the emergency. Yesterday, the Tata chairman called and we expect to have their team here in a couple of days as well,” Alva said.

While the three firms would provide three parallel manufacturing facilities to boost ventilator production, the devices would have to be “customised” to M&M and Tata’s components as they are automotive firms. They are also trying to see if several electronic components, sensors and displays used to make ventilators can be “managed” with alternates. So far, ventilator makers have relied on imports for these components, but global supply chains have been hit due to the ongoing pandemic and the shortage of ventilators in other countries.

“Now, we can do away with the display. We can go to a total, simple user interface without just having buttons and it is automatically programmed without display,” said Alva.

Queries to M&M about the development remained unanswered Saturday. The Tata Group too had said the group was looking at setting up a plan to manufacture ventilators “on priority”.

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