Manufacturing for greater good

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Local company is making ventilator parts for GM, Ventec

  • Swissomation employee Cody Baskin works on building a ventilator unit at the Fredericksburg location, 112 Marschall Creek Road. The local plant was tasked with helping the Virginia branch after General Motors and Ventec Life Systems were contracted by the U.S. government to build 30,000 extra ventilators. — Submitted photo
    Swissomation employee Cody Baskin works on building a ventilator unit at the Fredericksburg location, 112 Marschall Creek Road. The local plant was tasked with helping the Virginia branch after General Motors and Ventec Life Systems were contracted by the U.S. government to build 30,000 extra ventilators. — Submitted photo
  • Swissomation will test its parts before they’re completed. Christian Welch, president of the Fredericksburg branch, said building these parts adds another layer of anxiety, as everything must be perfect the first time.
    Swissomation will test its parts before they’re completed. Christian Welch, president of the Fredericksburg branch, said building these parts adds another layer of anxiety, as everything must be perfect the first time.
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When Christian Welch’s company was asked to help make ventilator components for General Motors and Ventec Life Systems in March, he felt a sense of moral responsibility.

“It has definitely been a big difference over our normal work,” said Welch, president of Swissomation in Fredericksburg. “Everybody’s really excited to help out and be a part of it.”

Swissomation’s Virginia branch has been making ventilator components for Ventec for several years, but the demand increased after GM and Ventec partnered to assemble 30,000 units for the U.S. government by the end of August to help treat more COVID-19 patients in critical condition, according to an article from Reuters. Because of this, Swissomation needed its Fredericksburg branch, located at 112 Marschall Creek Road, to help out.

“Many of our staff have been working extra hours and coming in on Saturday, just trying to get parts moving through the shop and really get this production going,” Welch said.

Making these components has created extra work for the company, but Welch said it’s also added more passion into what they do.

“It makes it a little easier to work those extra hours,” Welch said. “If it wasn’t ventilator parts, then we’d be making personal protective equipment. We’d be jumping in and trying to help wherever we can.”

While it might be more exciting, the responsibility also adds more stress to their everyday work.

“If I fail, it’s not just like we can replace that part next week,” Welch said. “It’s just got an extra level of stress that comes with making sure everything we’re doing is perfect.”

It’s also tough for employees to wind down during this pandemic, as most of their activities have been interrupted due to government shutdowns.

 “I guess everyone’s kind of coping the best they can at the moment,” Welch said.

For him, family time helps.

“Just spending time with the kids and my wife and my family,” Welch said. “That’s the time that we really enjoy together.”

 While the increase in production has been tough, Welch said it’s also been a blessing in disguise.

“As long as we’re getting this ventilator work from GM, it’s really helping us to keep staff employed and keep equipment running while our traditional business is down significantly,” Welch said.

Even through all the hardships, Welch’s team is just happy to help.

“I think that’s what makes America different is the fact that we’re all pretty passionate about our country and we all jump in during times of crisis,” Welch said. “We’re really just trying to do our part and do as much as we can.”