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Firms turn factory lines into mask-making units

By Zhou Huiying in Harbin and Ma Si in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-11 08:34
Employees at a hygiene product manufacturer in Suining, Sichuan province, work round the clock to produce medical masks on Friday. [Photo by Zhong Min/For China Daily]

Several Chinese automobile makers, smartphone assemblers and baby care product producers are starting to churn out medical masks at their revamped factories, as part of the nation's broader fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak.

These companies are either purchasing new production lines, or temporarily transforming their existing dust-free assembly lines to produce crucial medical equipment, so as to meet the surging demand for medical masks and protective suits in China.

Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer and a key Apple supplier, for instance, said a unit of the company has purchased production lines in an industrial park to produce masks.

The company said it is applying for relevant certificates needed to make masks and by the end of February, its daily production volume of masks is expected to hit 2 million pieces.

Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holding Co Ltd, better known as Hayao, is also joining the push. It has purchased two N95 facial mask production lines, which arrived on Friday with a passenger train carrying the manufacturing equipment from Guangdong province.

"One production line has been assembled overnight in our factory," said Sun Jintao, director of equipment management at the company's factory. "It is expected to start production next Monday, with a daily output of 20,000 to 30,000 pieces."

In Liuzhou, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, 12 production lines will be put into operation by the end of February after reconstruction in a 2,000-square-meter workshop in SGMW, a joint venture between General Motors and Liuzhou Wuling Motors, founded in 2002.

Daily output can reach more than 1.7 million pieces, which will greatly help relieve the shortage of medical supplies in Guangxi for epidemic prevention and control.

In Fujian, workers of the famous diaper manufacturer Daddy Baby are busy revamping their original production lines for mask production.

"By mid-February, the first production lines can provide 1.4 million masks per day," said Lin Yanting, deputy general manager. "And daily output can reach 3.5 million pieces by the end of March with expanded production lines.

"After the epidemic passes, the modified mask production line cannot be reinvented. At that time, we may face the problem of overcapacity.

"However, we believe each mask we produce may save one more person," he said.

Hohhot Petrochemical Company in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region has put in great efforts to produce polypropylene, the raw material needed for making masks and protective medical clothing.

The company plans to produce 3,000 metric tons of polypropylene. Each ton of the raw material can be used to produce about 250,000 protective masks.

Lian Weiliang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said during a recent news conference that enterprises should not worry about overcapacity problems after the epidemic.

"The government will purchase the remaining masks as reserves," he said. "As long as the enterprises meet the production standards, they can start at full capacity."

Yang Jun in Guiyang, Yuan Hui in Hohhot and Shi Ruipeng in Nanning contributed to this story.

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