Response to COVID-19 Will Make Us All Stronger
This week, Honda accelerated its preparation for an entirely new product in our 40-year history of building things in America. We will soon begin manufacturing compressors for ventilators that will help victims of COVID-19. This vital activity will soon get underway in a training center we established five years ago to help our associates develop manufacturing skills for the future, now home to the latest initiative in our company-wide effort to help provide solutions to many of the challenges posed by this pandemic.
I’m humbled to be part of a manufacturing enterprise that is working to find ways to join this fight, with each of our business lines – automobiles, power equipment, power sports and aircraft – offering unique solutions and support. And I’m proud that our response focuses on three vital and immediate human needs. We are addressing food insecurity at a time when so many families are struggling, working to employ our manufacturing know-how to produce medical equipment to help those battling COVID-19, and enabling our associates to serve as ‘virtual volunteers,’ to help people in need.
This societal threat is unprecedented in my lifetime and the realities of that are sinking in. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by the coronavirus, particularly those who are ill and the thousands of families who have lost loved ones. This outbreak has impacted us all in one way or another.
Right now, many people are struggling to provide meals for their own families. The largest network of food banks in the U.S., Feeding America, projects a gap of $1.4 billion in the next six months alone. So, as we looked at how Honda might best contribute to the COVID-19 crisis, including advice we received from a number of our own nonprofit partner organizations, we identified food insecurity as a critical area to support.
This led to our initial $1 million pledge to food banks and meal programs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, to provide society’s most vulnerable with access to food. The Honda family of companies throughout North America have been donating to community organizations that address food insecurity.
In addition to this pledge, we also are conducting a special matching gift program that enables Honda associates to make monetary donations to food programs in their local communities, with Honda matching up to $1,000 for each individual contribution.
Another major area of our response to COVID-19 is our support for healthcare providers and first responders. At the onset of the pandemic, Honda associates at our facilities in North America inventoried the Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, that we had on hand, and 10 Honda facilities have now donated more than 200,000 items to healthcare providers and first responders, including badly needed equipment such as gloves, face shields, N95 protective masks, alcohol wipes, half-mask respirators and other types of protective gear.
We then set about to harness our operations and the skills of our associates to create critical gear that is in short supply. We began by using 3D printers to manufacture parts for face shields. Partnering with our supplier Stratasys, Ltd., associates at five different Honda facilities are using 3D printers to help make face shield frames for donation to healthcare facilities and first responders. At the same time, a number of Honda engineers are applying their own ingenuity to develop a new method of manufacturing face shield frames using injection-molding technology normally utilized to make components for Honda and Acura vehicles.
In Marysville, Ohio, we have transformed our Technical Development Center into an assembly area where associates will soon make diaphragm vacuum compressors, developed by Dynaflo, Inc. The compressor is a key component of critically needed medical ventilators that provide a constant source of air to stricken patients. With support from Dynaflo, we are working toward a goal of producing 10,000 compressors a month.
In addition to providing medical equipment to healthcare providers and patients, and our pledge to address food insecurity, a third key part of our effort to provide relief to communities during this uncertain time is something we call “Virtual Volunteering.”
Honda associates have a longstanding tradition of community volunteerism, boots on the ground types of efforts that includes the national Team Honda Week of Service we conduct each summer with our suppliers and dealers. With the advent of “social distancing,” Honda associates are turning to Virtual Volunteering to help people in their own communities through activities such as making non-medical grade masks, conducting neighbor wellness checks by social media and other efforts that can be done from home using a computer or other device.
I have always found that difficult times, even tragic ones like this COVID-19 pandemic, can bring out the best in people. Without question, what I am most proud about with Honda’s response to this crisis is the efforts of our associates. Whether it’s using 3D printers to make face shield frames to protect healthcare workers, learning how to assemble compressors to save lives, or contributing as a Virtual Volunteer, I am humbled by the efforts of our team to support the community and our customers.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for sure, but I have seen an unprecedented response as well from Honda associates, from the automobile industry and from good people across the country. These contributions serve as continued motivation to do even more. As a company, and as a country, I believe these challenging times will make us stronger.
Executive Vice President
Honda North America, Inc.