Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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World-renowned for its excellence in manufacturing quality and delivery of bearings, NBC is now on a mission to fight COVID-19. As the world copes with the wrath of this invisible virus that has taken the lives of thousands around the world, the survival and sustenance of mankind depend on the actions we all take, right now!

Fighting this pandemic will take more than just social-distancing. With this thought, just as the crisis knocked the doors of our country, NBC Bearings got into motion to help the frontline warriors.

It All Started With the Commitment To Contribute

Even before the official announcement of lockdown, the engineers in NBC were challenged by Rohit Saboo, President and CEO – National Engineering Industries Ltd, to think of various ways NBC can contribute to the cause. Across the board, rigorous brainstorming sessions took place to discuss the approach to cope with the deadly COVID-19. As the lockdown was announced, NBC took the fundamental steps for community safety and preservation first.

A Proactive Lockdown Approach

The businesses came to a startling halt, the people were confined to their homes and an uncertainty-led panic crept in. Amongst this chaos, NBC began testing its capabilities, accounting for the resources at hand, and thinking what could be done with them.

Monetarily, a contribution of Rs. 3 crores was given to the PM Cares Fund and Rs. 1 crore to CM COVID Relief Fund. Sharing the same values as that of NBC, all the employees came forward to help and an additional voluntary contribution of Rs. 30 lacs was collected and given to the CM COVID Relief Fund.

Every day since the lockdown, NBC teams in various cities, with the help of the local police department, have been distributing hundreds of food packets to the underprivileged.

Apart from this, sanitation essentials like sanitizers, disinfectants, and masks along with thermometers were distributed in the cities where we operate.

During the initial phase, many people were ignorant of the severity of the situation and lacked proper guidance in coping with COVID-19. For educative purposes, NBC placed infographic hoardings and gave out over 100 thousand newspaper inserts discussing the Dos and Don’ts during the primary phase of COVID-19 panic.

Apart from these constant efforts, NBC’s most ambitious project to fight COVID-19 was shaped by R&D department of NBC, right inside the manufacturing plant.

Transforming Capabilities & Engineering Need-Of-The-Hour Innovations

Headed by Dr Lokesh Agrawal, Vice President – R&D, team at NBC started connecting with the medical fraternity experts and open community across India to innovate and develop medical-tool essentials that could be used to fight Coronavirus.

Face Shields prototype & production: NBC collaborated with VMK digital and Golcha Associated to create 3D printed prototype face shields for doctors and the healthcare workers. After getting an approval on the design and product, initial requirements was quickly accommodated and mass-production was started for distribution in various hospitals. This product can be used by health personnel, local administrative staff (like police, sanitization worker etc) and factory staff as well. This face shield is now being produced and supplied in large quantities by NBC, Golcha Associated and Polymed.

Mechanical ventilators: Engineers at NBC thought of doing something to increase capacity of ventilators, looking at how critical these have been around the world. While NBC team didn’t know much about the ventilators, they immersed themselves into understanding the functioning concepts, the resource requirements, and the technical know-how of building these medical machines.

2-way and 4-way splitter: As a first step, NBC with the aid of VMK Digital, manufactured 2-way and 4-way splitter ventilators to be used in the face of ventilators’ shortage in hospitals across India. The splitter concept was demonstrated and tested at few hospitals successfully. Based on the feedback, 2-way splitter were manufactured and supplied to the hospitals. This concept can be used only in extreme emergency for similar needs patient. While discussing with doctors, NBC team had a huge learning on how ventilator are used, what are different modes and what makes Ventilator important in COVID-19 scenario.

Ambu bag ventilators: Following splitter, NBC developed different concepts of manually – operated Ambu bag ventilator that could provide lung support in emergency situations, for example, at the time when a patient is being taken to the hospital in an ambulance or waiting for full-fledged ventilator availability. NBC team discussed with several Doctors and CK Birla hospital team to come to a minimum specification for emergency ventilator. Other design considerations were ease of manufacturing, scalability and no industrial component in patient flow path. Team quickly came up with two different concept of working proto type in “four days” which were meeting the basic functionality. However, these prototype were not meeting all the control parameters. Team enhanced efforts, roped in more people from manufacturing and maintenance, dedicated more time into research, closely went through each and every input provided by the medical experts and designed another sample accordingly. This was made ready for demonstration to doctors in next two days. The product was demonstrated in hospital and received good feedback on operation and mode, however, it was not yet ready for trials. In order to increase the ease of operation, improved controllability and improved interface, team is now working on the fourth version of ambu bag ventilator which is having stepper motor-controlled proportional valve ventilator along with computer interface. The idea is to build a variant that can be controlled from one’s desktop which minimizes the contact between
medical staff and COVID-19 patient. The team is making progress and constantly evolving the ventilator.

Our Team, Our Strength

Following the social-distancing measures and taking hygiene seriously, NBC team started working towards realising this mission. While many of the employees couldn’t be physically present, all of them shared the same values and helped the best they could to make multi-lateral COVID-19 projects possible. Then there were also the heroes like product designers, system integrators, electronic engineers, tool management team, and others who took the challenge and came to the facility every day (with due safety measures, of course), to turn our passion into reality.

There was absolutely no hierarchy and in fact, all the employees were so driven to contribute that they came up with new tech-solutions for combating COVID-19 every day. While the lines between morning and night blurred as they worked incessantly, their enthusiasm to make a difference kept getting stronger by the
day.

Lessons Learnt

The biggest learning is that when the intent is right, people always join in to help you move forward towards your goal. For example, the mass production of face-shields and ventilators would not be possible without the support of NBC suppliers. They believed in the vision and made sure to go that extra mile to arrange the required resources.

Amidst these, according to Dr. Lokesh Agrawal, the most enlightening thought that has emerged is that people can apply capabilities to multiple fields and need not box themselves. In fact, one should always seek to expand the applications of their knowledge and competencies. This is where the essence of any crisis management lies, to think different, be different and provide flexible solution.

Together, We Can!

From fumigating large areas with disinfectants through drones to producing herbal sanitizers, IITs and their brilliant students are doing their bit to fight the pandemic on the frontline across India, showing the infinite scope of technology and its creative uses. It is amazing how India has emerged in the fields of medical, STEM and Artificial Intelligence during the past couple of months.

Two months back, NBC team didn’t know of their capabilities outside making bearings. However, today, it is a different situation realising what has been achieved. If they can do it, so can you!

People in the field of technology should push their limits by challenging the present knowledge and consciousness. They should explore and apply the expertise in other fields and see the magic happening!

Going forward, when all is back to normal, commit to evolve, learn, adapt, and challenge yourself. The face of the world will change after this is over. Be ready to be that change.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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