Auto, diaper makers adjust production plans to support medical supplies

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An employee of Chinese face mask maker Dasheng Health Products Manufacture Co works at the company's factory in Shanghai, East China on Friday. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

More than 3,000 Chinese enterprises, including auto, diaper, and underwear makers have added medical supplies that are in urgent need such as masks, protective outfits and disinfectants to their business lines, a move to ease shortages in China amid the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak. From the beginning of the year to Friday, more than 3,647 enterprises added medical equipment to their lines of business, according to a report by egsea.com, under the Securities Times.Domestic new-energy vehicle maker BYD told the Global Times that it diverted part of its production lines to make masks and disinfectants, and would not stop until the epidemic is cleared. Mass production will be achieved around February 17 with daily capacity reaching 5 million masks and 50,000 bottles of disinfectants by the end of the month, it said. It gave no explanation on where the medical products will go to. Fuzhou-based diaper maker Daddybaby also joined the mask manufacturing team and aims to provide 2 to 2.5 million masks per day by the end of the month, the company's deputy manager Lin Yanting told the Global Times on Sunday. "As a diaper maker, we have advantages in our raw material partners and we have similar production lines to masks, which makes the adjustment quick… The first batch of masks for civilian use will follow the local government's arrangements and be given to students and workers who will soon return to schools and factories," Lin said, adding the company has reserved masks for its workers.He noted the company hopes to explore the mask market after the epidemic is over. "Even if masks become an overcapacity sector in the future, they can serve as a reserve," he said. Domestic leading underwear makers, namely HOdo Group and Shanghai ThreeGun Group Co, adjusted their production lines to produce masks as well. Apple's contract manufacturing partner Foxconn, which also started a trial production line to make 100,000 masks per day, told the Global Times the masks will be given to the company's nearly 1 million workers as a priority, and it aims to produce 2 million masks per day by the end of the month. "At this moment, many enterprises are on edge to get their workers back to the factories as soon as possible while ensuring their health," Tian Yun, vice director of the Beijing Economic Operation Association, told the Global Times. Tian noted there is no shortage of raw material to produce masks and other medical supplies for a leading medical power such as China; instead, the lack of equipment and workers are the difficulties at present. This happened to China's oil giant Sinopec, which published an article going viral online on Thursday titled "I have melt-blown fabric and who has mask machines." The fabric is the filter layer in masks, and its raw material is polypropylene (PP). Within one day, Sinopec found 11 mask production lines nationwide and expected part of them to produce more than 130,000 masks on Monday. Since February, the oil provider has put 15,000 tons of raw materials related to healthcare products onto the market, and will put out another 80,000 tons in February. China's largest offshore oil and gas producer China National Offshore Oil Corp told the Global Times the raw materials of PP will never run out or rise in price. "Shifting to produce masks may result in losses for those companies' production efficiency and resource allocation, but that is the responsibility that state-owned enterprises should share," Tian noted. He suggested that China should re-work its system to confront the public health crisis, set up models to estimate shortages and choose companies as reserve producers in advance. China's daily capacity of masks is 20 million, which is the world's largest, according to an official at Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Tuesday. However, the total population of dense cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Chengdu, Chongqing and Wuhan surpasses 150 million, which requires about 150 million masks per day if everyone goes outside. Due to the surging demand in a short period and the lack of workers in the Spring Festival holiday, China's mask capacity has not returned to half of its normal status, the China Consumers Association and Textile Commodities Association said on Thursday. In order to reassure enterprises' concerns on mask overcapacity, authorities have introduced policies to collect excess production, the associations said.The "making-mask" team may grow bigger and cover every industry, from autos to smartphone makers. Chinese smartphone brand Oppo told the Global Times on Sunday it has sent some technicians and workers to assist mask production at other companies and prepared for manufacturing masks itself.Copyright Global Times. All rights reserved.Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc.