Supporting the fightback against Covid-19

Apr 01, 2020

Adam Cunningham, CEO of Muller Holdings and Chairman of the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), explores how member companies are supporting the frontline effort against Covid-19.

Manufacturers by their very nature are an ingenious bunch, always trying to find a solution to everyday problems that society gleefully accepts without so much as a blink of an eye. It’s just what we do, part of our DNA I suppose you could say.

We are also a decent ally in times of national crisis, as previously seen during the war efforts and in devising new measures to prevent floods that have been prevalent in the UK in recent years.

Now we are faced with Covid-19, arguably the biggest challenge in modern times to the way we live.

As a group of nine sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency we moved quickly to lend our expertise and capabilities to support the frontline fight.

There was a universal agreement that we would put MAN forward to help build ventilators, whether that was part of a consortium or increasing supply chain capability for critical sub-assemblies and parts, such as vacuums and pumps.

Two of our members, Grove Design and James Lister & Sons, went a stage further, developing two ‘concept’ respirators from scratch, ensuring we understand how they work and the engineering disciplines/parts involved. We are ready to go on this if we are called into action.

James Lister & Sons concept

Grove Design concept

The MAN effort doesn’t stop there. Austin and his team at Grove Design are 3D printing safety visors after a request from a GP friend in Herefordshire and are now developing a clear filter mask that practitioners can use when caring for patients that are deaf and need to be able to lip read.

A prototype was quickly designed and made, which involves a vacuum formed shell with 3D printed cartridges attached to hold filters and a neoprene seal against the face. It will be interesting to see if this meets the clinician’s request. Either way, it’s a perfect example of how quickly SMEs can respond to a challenge and the depth of solutions we need to help combat Covid-19.

Essential manufacturers and suppliers

There are a number of MAN companies that are classed as essential manufacturers and continuing to supply critical components into medical, food and infrastructure, including:


Increased its manufacturing capacity to produce additional nose clips for use on millions of face masks used across the world.

face mask nose clip covid-19

James Lister & Sons

Components for the food sector and essential hygiene items for the NHS.

Muller Holdings

Supplier of parts for dental and medical equipment and for use in the online grocery sector.

PP Control & Automation

Supporting the build of medical equipment and ophthalmic testing solutions, as well as strategic manufacturing outsourcing services to world leaders in food processing and packaging.

It is great to see Dyson, the VentilatorChallengeUK, Protolabs and other manufacturers embrace the call to help the NHS, but behind the big brands and high-profile names there are lots of SMEs doing amazing things to support the national effort, thanks mainly to our innovation, our agility and our speed of response.

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