Fort Wayne, Ind. — BRC Rubber & Plastics Inc. is used to rapidly turning around orders for customers, but the Indiana company's efforts to create multiple parts for General Motors Co.'s COVID-19 ventilator project is even beyond what the company normally does.
For BRC, declining to help with GM's efforts to build thousands of ventilators to help battle COVID-19 was never a consideration.
The Fort Wayne-based based maker of rubber, silicone and plastic parts is churning out six different parts at its Churubusco, Ind., facility that are being used in the construction of ventilators at a GM site in nearby Kokomo, Ind.
It was in early April that GM put out the call for interested suppliers to help the automotive company ramp up production of ventilators originally manufactured by Ventec Life Systems. In less than a day, BRC had identified which parts it could recreate and supply to the emergency project.
Initially awarded five different silicone parts, a sixth was added within a week, and BRC quickly went to work figuring out how to bring its portion of the project together.
Making parts for the automotive industry is BRC's bread and butter, and a close relationship with GM convinced the company it needed to step up and do whatever was needed to help with the ventilator effort dubbed Project V.
"It's a pride. It's a humanitarian effort. 'No' is not an option. It's got to be done, and we're going to do it," said Scott Wellman, director of sales and marketing at BRC.
With that kind of attitude, it was clear from the beginning that this was not going to be a typical project. There was no consideration of details like bidding and profit margins, he said. Even now, the company still has to sort out the financial details.
"Our executive management fully supported knowing going into this program that they were going to spend a lot," Wellman said. "There were no cost models put together. No quotes sent to the customer. The customer said, 'I need this. I need it now. … Will you participate?' "
BRC readily admits it needed help to pull off a project like this.
"It could not have been done without the efforts of our outside supply partners, the tooling shops, the raw material suppliers and the teamwork of all of our internal people," Wellman said. "In less than two weeks, and in some cases just in a matter of days, we had all six of those part numbers tooled up."