Covid-19: French industry has reasons to be proud


French industry has heeded the call. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, everyone – from the largest corporations down to smaller businesses – has been mobilizing for the war on the coronavirus. New initiatives to help those who are on the front lines against the pandemic have been cropping up every day.

Large groups like L’Oréal, Pernod-Ricard, Tereos and others have announced that they are contributing to producing anti-bacterial gels, and LVMH arranged for the delivery of 10 million FFP2 masks to French hospitals. Those are just a few examples, but we should not overlook the many smaller firms acting on a local level, such as Bonneterie Chanteclair, Géochanvre, Lacoste Operations, Sigvaris, and Thuasne… as well as Caviar de Neuvic, which has donated thousands of masks to the local hospital in the town of Neuvic (Corrèze). 

French industry is also mobilizing massively to assist traditional manufacturers in producing ventilators. Because despite the fact that the pace of production has increased, hospitals are still worried about the threat of a shortage of ventilators, or even worse, of, oxygen. After intense work carried out by an ad hoc task force that included Valeo, PSA and Schneider, Air Liquide, the only manufacturer of the devices in France, has committed to producing 10,000 of them by the middle of May. It will be up to the other three partners in the consortium to supply AL with the 300 to 400 components that go into the devices. This is an unbelievable human and industrial challenge, because they will be producing the machines in record time. The goal is to increase Air Liquide’s usual production speed by a factor of 21 – in other words, three years’ worth of production in less than two months! 

All hands are on deck at Renault, as well. The firm has joined an initiative called “Makers for Life.” Launched in Nantes with the AEC, it provides know-how and expertise in industrialization, supply chain and logistics. Firms like Michelin and ST Microelectronics are part of that initiative, too. The Losange Group is also investigating the possibility of producing ventilators with 3-D printing. 

Industrials are contributing to the effort all over the country. At Armor Lux (Brittany), 30 sewers agreed to come back to work in a factory that has been reconfigured to produce 3,000 masks a day. In Lozère, the jeans company Tuffery stopped normal production in order to make cloth masks that are being distributed free to the local population. In the Loire region, the textile manufacturer Les Tissages de Charlieu has developed a prototype for a protective mask made of cotton and polyester. 

Antibacterial gel, masks, ventilators and more… French industry is mobilized on many fronts. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron announced 4 billion euros in funding for the research agency Santé Publique France (Public Health France) in order to guarantee production of much-needed medical products, as well as an unprecedented national production effort. 

More than 45 French firms will be producing new masks in a design that was just approved, while production of antibacterial gel – which is usually no higher than 48,000 liters a day in France – has been multiplied by eleven, to reach 500,000 liters a day. 

In response to this unprecedented effort, French Fab can only say how extremely proud it is of this surge of solidarity that represents a tremendous human, technical and logistical achievement every single day.