Joe Gibbs Racing Steps Up to Protect Health Workers

Joe Gibbs Racing is famous for its technology in the shop and speed on the track. But those who follow NASCAR know that the team also has a whole lot of heart. So it comes as no surprise that, during the current COVID-19 crisis, everyone looked around to see how they could pitch in and help. As luck would have it, CTO Jim Foley has a neighbor in the health-care industry who told him about the desperate need for face shields to protect medical workers. When Jim asked around some medical facilities if they could use some ASAP, the answer from five North Carolina health-care institutions was a resounding “Yes!” Knowing first hand the importance of proper personal safety equipment, the team enthusiastically set out to make face shields. The trick was to do it while keeping themselves safe.

Never at a loss when it comes to a challenge, the team came up with a plan.

A Better Design

Making things better is in JGR’s DNA. A couple of them looked at the current design of face shields and observed that it provided very little protection from the sides. Knowing they could improve on that, they came up with their own drawings, which impressed the medical teams to no end. They said it was the best design they had ever seen. Pretty impressive when you realize the engineers put it all together while working from home.

Working Together…Apart

After the design was finalized, the head of procurement George Skelton came up with the materials required. The next step was making the actual pieces of the gear, which obviously had to be done in the shop. First, “germ bombs” were set off to help sanitize the work area. Operators Pat Haywood, Ryan Bringle and Paul Miller then went into the shop to make parts on their laser cutter, water jet and the Doosan PUMA GT 2100 lathe. Thankfully, the JGR shop is plenty big, allowing the team to adhere to social distancing while getting the job done.

Totes were filled with components as they came off the machines. These were placed outside the doors, where they were picked up by JGR volunteers. They then assembled the pieces at home and delivered the completed face shields.

Thinking Outside the Box

The medical facilities were so pleased with the face shields they were soon back with another request. Could JGR build “barrier” boxes that are placed over a patient’s head to protect doctors while inserting tubes for intubation? The clear plastic cubes have ports in them for the doctor’s hands. This protects them from the aerosolized virus during this process. Our mini-medical team was soon on the job and delivering another life-saving device. The latest request JGR received was to make parts for the ventilators that are so desperately needed across the country. These, also, are being turned out from their re-purposed race shop.

From Racing to Aerospace and Medical

Joe and his team jumped in to assist health care workers within their community without hesitation. Their process mindset aided them tremendously as they sought new answers to a different manufacturing challenge. Having worked with JGR for almost 22 years, we are proud to partner with them as explore new manufacturing territory. In fact, plans are in the works for some of the team to turn their talents and skills to the medical and aerospace industries full time in the near future.

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