HMK Automation helps Ventilator Challenge UK step up a gear

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:

A leading automation firm has been playing its part in the Ventilator Challenge UK, which has seen almost 14,000 ventilators produced for the NHS.

HMK Automation, based in Congleton, Cheshire, specialises in delivering automation solutions across a range of industries, and was called upon to supply crucial components and engineering advice for the challenge.

The Ventilator Challenge UK was launched in March amid the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in anticipation of a surge in cases and a shortage of ventilators within the health service.

A consortium of UK aerospace, motorsport, automotive and medical businesses joined forces to deliver critical Penlon ESO 2 and Smiths paraPAC™ plus ventilators to the NHS throughout the crisis.

Among the key partners involved was tech giant Siemens, and HMK is their approved distribution partner, supplying their market leading products alongside the engineering expertise of the HMK workforce.

Gary Kitchin, Managing Director at HMK Automation Group, explained: “We have a long history with Siemens having worked with them for the past 30 years. They have played a key role in the Ventilator Challenge and when they were looking for UK manufacturers to supply certain parts and components, naturally they came to us.

“The Siemens engineers had put together a prototype to solve a problem with a calibration issue and they required a precision gearbox. The initial request was ‘can we get one and can we get it quickly?’.

“At HMK, it’s not part of our ethos to just supply the products and then vanish, we’re here to provide complete end-to-end solutions and ultimately deliver success for our customers.

“When our application engineers looked at the task, we soon realised that the gearbox initially requested was not the best product for the job, so we were able to supply an alternative gearbox, which was much better suited to the challenge.

“We pride ourselves on being more than just a product supplier, our expertise lies in our breadth of application and mechanical knowledge, so we were able to select the right parts and use our engineering expertise to deliver a performance and cost optimised solution.”

HMK provided two units free of charge within a tight timescale in order to support the nationwide challenge, which at its peak was producing 400 ventilators per day.

Mr Kitchin added: “Obviously, time was of the essence, so we took the call at 3.30pm on the Wednesday, and the gearboxes were ready for collection the following day.

“The Covid-19 crisis has hit everyone hard, but businesses have a crucial role to play in the battle against the pandemic so we supplied two units at no charge.

“We were just really pleased to be able to do our bit and we’re incredibly proud that our workforce has been able to use their engineering expertise to support such a worthy cause, which has ultimately saved lives.”

The Ventilator Challenge UK has now drawn to a close, having created almost 14,000 ventilators and doubled the stock available to the NHS.


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