When the COVID-19 Pandemic grew rapidly in early 2020, medical supplies were in short supply. Different areas and organizations struggled with different types of issues, and one of the higher profile issues was with ventilators. In March, the projections were dire and quite a few hospitals were worried about the supplies of these devices. This was especially disconcerting given how many people were being placed on them and how long it takes to produce them.
I met someone at that time that said getting a car company to produce these wasn’t possible. The factories were specialized and converting machinery and people wasn’t something that could be done in months. This was someone that claimed to have over 30 years of manufacturing experience.
I had no basis to argue, though my instinct was that we have mobilized large industrial efforts in the past. When I read this article recently, it made me think about that conversation. Microsoft worked with a number of manufacturers to produce ventilators quickly, up to 400 a day in the UK. The story is interesting, and it shows that engineers at companies like Ford, McLaren, Unilever, Rolls-Royce, and more can not only work together, but also focus their efforts in a crisis. With the help of technology and data, they transformed a manufacturing process from the ground up to meet the needs of the UK.
If you watch the video of the effort, it is amazing to see just how knowledge and data are brought together to ensure these devices can be built quickly, and at a very high level of quality. Certainly some PR is involved here, but the keys to success in producing something are the knowledge and skills being applied to a task. Products like dashboards and the Hololens help to move knowledge around where it is needed. In building software, tools like Live Share help to move knowledge from one person to another.
The coordination of people working together, driving to a common goal, is critical as well. DevOps asks us to practice this, choosing to be a team, with the goal of increasing quality while we focus on delivering software to customers. This is a great story, but one that highlights things that many of us could strive for in our daily work.