Sergio Pujols Helps DENSO Deliver Respirator Components in 25 Days
A spirit of foresight, credibility and collaboration - that is DENSO’s DNA and how we were able to help our customer deliver medical equipment components from concept to production in just 25 days. Here’s a first-hand glimpse from Sergio Pujols, director of research and development at DENSO’s North American headquarters in Southfield, Michigan, and one of the project leaders that had DENSO producing respirator components for a customer to help protect health care workers fighting COVID-19.
How did you get involved with this project? Our customer contacted me about a month ago very late at night and said they had an idea to make a respirator to support our health care professionals fighting COVID-19 and wanted to know if DENSO could help. They sent us what I like to call a “napkin sketch” of a respirator concept utilizing automotive components, and a little over a week later we had a finalized design to be kicked-off for production, and new tools and an assembly line set up within weeks.
What can you say about the people who worked on this project? I cannot say enough about the passion and dedication of this team. That first weekend, there were only a handful of us involved. But over time, a total of 200 DENSO associates worked on this project. Everyone came together to make this succeed – from global leadership and our customer to design and manufacturing engineers and production experts and even our security guards. Many of us were working 18-hour days. We were exhausted. But what really put it in perspective was reminding ourselves that people are out there dying from COVID-19 including the health care professionals who were putting their life at risk to help others. That made us push even harder.
What are you most proud of? Two things. First, the commitment from our associates. I’ve always been proud to work at DENSO and after seeing how many of us came together to provide a solution to a critical problem during an intense situation, I’ve never been prouder. The level of commitment was astounding. And two, the support we received from top management. When we told our local and global leadership about the project, they essentially said, “Tell us what you need.” They were very engaged and passionate about what we were doing.
What was the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge was time. As we spent time planning and preparing, doctors and nurses and other health care workers were still fighting and getting sick and even dying. We wanted to move fast. We had to work with our customer to design something and make it simple enough to manufacturer quickly. But we also had to ensure the product met DENSO’s standard of safety and quality. And, as you know, DENSO doesn’t design medical equipment. We followed our customer’s direction, but we also researched regulations and talked to hospital workers to understand what they needed.
How does it feel to be part of the fight against COVID-19? It’s very humbling and it feels like it’s the least we can do. Every time you turn on the news or look at your phone, it’s all about the doctors and nurses not having PPE, and they still put their lives at risk. Knowing that, our entire team was eager to do something to help.
What would you suggest to someone who wants to support their local frontline workers? If you want to support the fight against COVID-19 – stay home, if you’re able. That’s enough. If you want to do more, talk to your manager. There are many things happening at DENSO right now to help combat this virus.