The deadly coronavirus pandemic has devastated the lives of ordinary mortals apart from affecting industries big and small in general despite the nationwide lockdown, relaxed in phases, since March-end. It has left no sector unaffected and as a result crores of workers are forced to undergo big havoc unseen and unheard of in their lifetime!
Despite such adverse conditions, some companies have gone out of the way to keep going in a minuscule manner possible and at the same time contribute their mite towards the war against combating the killer virus.
Aditya Auto Products during the lockdown
Aditya Auto Products and Engineering Limited is one such company having manufacturing facility at the Doddaballapur Industrial area on the outskirts of Bengaluru which deserves mention for its innovative ways in performing even during a perplexing condition full of odds all the way.
According to Suresh Sethuraman, CFO of Aditya Auto Products and Engineering Ltd. company, they thought of producing assisted respirators taking into consideration the huge shortage of Artificial Respiratory Systems or Ventilators as commonly known as.
Interestingly the offer to manufacture these assisted respirators was made to the government sources as early as 10 days after the first phase of lockdown stipulations came into force way back in last March. The hitherto automobile companies like Mahindra and TVS also evinced enthusiasm in the new project.
Due to the lockdown norms in place, it was really a challenging task to execute the project work. However, as many of the key officials and much of the workforce happened to be based out of Yelahanka and parts of North Bengaluru, it wasn’t all that difficult as anticipated to ensure the end products.
All safety precautions and sanitizer measures were undertaken before beginning the actual production at a juncture when all industrial units were forced to be closed due to the government’s decision of enforcing lockdown across the country.
The assisted respirator, a low-end ventilator but serving the purpose of pumping in the air and enabling the patient to breathe involving a key motor and controller, was a kind of a solution. Within three or four days, a prototype was ready.
Although Mahindra & Mahindra, which happens to be an existing customer for different products evinced keen interest in the product backed out from the proposition as there was literally no transportation during the 1:0 lockdown period.
However, TVS was much faster than Mahindra in invoicing and accelerating the commercial activity with the suitable approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The assisted respirator is basically an interim solution for Public Health Centres (PHCs’) lacking ventilators and desperately in need of similar equipment during transportation of patients for further treatment elsewhere. In a way, it is a low-end Ventilator with a functional purpose, observes Suresh Sethuraman, CFO of Aditya Auto Products and Engineering Ltd. company.
This equipment has a controller which happens to be an electronic device which has the options of being programmed while the motor is just a mechanic part. Even the Revolutions per Minute(RPM) settings can also be done in this type of low-end ventilator, he explains.
Necessity as mother of innovation
Despite the plant having manpower of around 500 people only 10 of them were deployed since it was perceived as an opportunity and a learning exercise to support the customer at the existing critical timeline. Initially, 150 units were supplied which cost a meagre Rs 300 each while the entire set up costs Rs 10,000. So far 10,000 orders are in place while the orders are continuously on the rise, told Suresh Sethuraman.
He hastened to add, “We are working on a modified respirator as a whole… This assisted respirator is not a high technology product and involves a simple process of making. It is not a gratifying thing commercially but for adding value to the brand.”
This expertise, in the long run, may also lead to exports of medical equipment in a big way, he hopes. This equipment is essential and required not just to people having symptoms of COVID-19 as any viral infection leads to breathing problems. Probably once the present Corona situation gets over a new exercise may take place, foresees Suresh Sethuraman.
Talking about the overall learning in the due process, he looks quite optimistic: Everything seems to be going to work. In the given circumstances, no one knows what’s right and it’s only a hypothesis for a week and observation of the subsequent effects.
But when asked about the gain to the company in terms of money, he is equally candid: “The whole exercise is more of triggering of creative things… we are not a too money-minded company. We inherit a talent built-in Engineering and contribute value-added products and realization of quick solutions.”