#VentilatorHeroes. Because every role matters.
To enable General Motors to succeed at mass-manufacturing Ventec Life System’s VOCSN ventilator systems as rapidly as the COVID-19 response needed, Velentium had to source, assemble, document, verify, and supply the automated test systems we’d helped Ventec design a few short years ago. In all, we provided 141 test systems, delivered continuously over 5 weeks. We shipped the first system just 4 days after we received GM’s purchase order.
Ventilators are sensitive devices. Like any medical device, each one has to work exactly right so that they benefit patients in the way caregivers expect. The way to ensure each one is right is by testing them as they’re being built - not just at the end, but also by testing subassemblies at key stages throughout the manufacturing process.
But of course, manufacturing test results are only as reliable as the test systems themselves. When building an already-validated test system, as we did for Project V 2020, each test system must itself be tested to verify that it was built properly and operates correctly. Because we were continuously building and shipping test systems throughout the 5-week effort, we were also continuously performing verification testing on those new test systems.
This was tricky, because we had people working from multiple locations in Houston and Katy, TX - from home and in various offices - as well as at GM’s repurposed ventilator factory in Kokomo, IN. Parts were on the move, personnel were on the move, and everyone was working flat-out for 12-18 hours per day. And on Wednesday, April 8, we realized we were short-staffed by 1 verification tester in Katy.
We were scheduled to ship 20 of our 141 test systems that night. Out of the 20, there simply wasn’t enough time to perform verification testing on three of our External Flow test systems before they shipped. That meant that these three systems would have be verified on-site at the factory, after they arrived in Kokomo. Situations like this aren’t the end of the world, but they also aren’t ideal, because if verification testing uncovers any issues we wouldn't be able to address them at the shop, and they could be more complicated or more time-consuming to address at the factory. For an effort as time-sensitive as Project V, taking that risk simply wasn’t acceptable.
As with many of the challenges faced down during Project V, the seemingly-impossible simply required a bit of ingenuity. Here’s what we did:
- Mechanical Engineer Tim Grogan set up all three External Flow systems in our large, Zoom-ready conference room at our Katy office, all powered up and ready for remote login. He also unmounted our high-res conference camera from the wall and positioned it where it could be moved around to view each system from various angles as required by the verification procedure.
- Meanwhile, qualified testers Dan Purvis, Alberto Lin, and Jason Swoboda prepared to dial in remotely from their respective locations.
- With Lead Mechanical Engineer Girven Kissell on call from the build he was simultaneously overseeing in the next room, three technicians were brought into the conference room to act as the (socially-distanced) on-site hands for the remote testers.
- Thanks to a Zoom conference call and remote system access, Lead Tester Alberto Lin was able to instruct Dan, Swoboda, and on-site techs Santi, Frank, and James, as he walked everyone through the verification procedure. The procedure was a success!
- Rather than surrender to the inherent risks of an under-resourced situation, these #VentilatorHeroes found the creativity and flexibility to plan and execute a three-system parallel test process to verify these systems on schedule.
In addition to hailing Tim, Girven, Alberto, Jason, Dan, Santi, Frank, and James as #VentilatorHeroes, we’d be remiss not to also offer a shout-out to Zoom. Through numerous daily meetings of sometimes dozens of attendees in many parts of the country and internationally, Zoom “just worked” and enabled us to collaborate reliably at all hours of the day, from anywhere to anywhere. Succeeding at Project V without the dependability and flexibility of a conferencing tool like Zoom facilitating creative solutions like that one we deployed above would not only have been more frustrating and more challenging - it would have taken time we didn’t have to spare.
Velentium celebrates #VelentiumHeroes because when it comes to crisis response, there’s no such thing as non-essential. When every minute counts, every role matters. So thanks, Remote Testing Team, for stepping up, figuring it out, and getting it done… and thanks Zoom, for making it possible.