CUI Devices in the US is ramping production of its electromechanical components for equipment such as ventilators to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak but is wary of industry supply chain issues in the coming months if the virus hits Asia a second time.
The company has launched initiatives include prioritizing medical orders and shipping free product samples quickly to OEMs, makers, volunteers, and organizations designing equipment such as respirators, ventilators, blood analysis machines, test equipment, patient monitors, imaging systems, and home medical equipment.
“We have been incredibly surprised in the last three to four weeks how many applications started coming our way for ventilators and respirators as well as ancillary applications such as covid-19 testing equipment,” said Jeff Schnabel, president of CUI Devices. The ramp up has only just started, with the peak expected in June, and many orders are coming from unexpected sources.
“Most of our customers are not ramping to really high production until June. From a visibility standpoint we understand what the contracts look like with governments but this is becoming nationalized,” he said. “Each government is looking to place its own orders for ventilators and its going through non-typical design channels.
There are four key product lines, starting with motion control encoders, the motor that controls the air in the ventilator, the USB or power connectors, thermoelectric coolers and fans as well as audio applications such as piezo electric actuators for the alerts on equipment.
The demand is global. “It’s from the US, UK, EU, India, it’s all over the place. We want to prioritise this – if we can get a ventilator out we can help to save a life. Internally any Covid-19 request whether for a new or existing product bubbles up to executive management and we are prioritizing our production lines to ensure we have the capacity, adding double shifts, adding capacity and expediting free samples for makers, OEMs, contract manufacturers and non profit companies,” he said.
It’s also about helping find the right product with the right production volumes, he says. “For our products we have different capacity based on the product variation. For example, a request might come in for a specific part, for example from a distributor such as Digikey, with a volume of 100,000 units a month, while a slightly different part is 1m/month so we can steer customers to those,” he said.
The most capacity constrained area is motion control, he says. “That worries me less than the potential for supply chains shutting down again. The Western world is really lucky that it hit in Asia six to eight weeks earlier, so the supply chains are up and running. If we can’t get access to a certain sub-component we run into similar challenges. We have factories in Japan which hasn’t been hit hard yet but that’s starting to be an issue, particularly in China for interconnect, and Thailand and Canada for motion control. We potentially won’t be hit all at once.”
“We are grateful to the many companies stepping up during these uncertain times to build the equipment necessary to fight Covid‑19,” he said. “CUI Devices also gives our utmost thanks to the hardworking medical teams around the world, while extending our thoughts to the patients and families impacted by this health crisis.”