CRITICAL TECH: Ventilator production at a Skanray facility
BENGALURU: Skanray Technologies has been making ventilators since 2014 in Mysuru. But it was only this year that its CV200 advanced ICU ventilators overnight became critical to India’s battle with Covid-19.
Skanray holds over 80 patents on this ventilator design and 50 other medical equipment that it has built since it was founded thirteen years ago. Skanray had the capacity to produce 5,000 ventilators in 8-12 weeks. But when Covid hit, it suddenly had to ramp up to 30,000 following a mandate from Niti Aayog and the Union health secretary.
The first challenge was sourcing materials for production. “We used to rely 70-80% on indigenous material and the rest on imports. But with the lockdown, we had to become fully indigenous,” says Skanray Technologies MD Vishwaprasad Alva, who worked at GE Healthcare for more than seven years before he founded Skanray.
The company also realised their factory might not be able to scale up rapidly. “So we shifted production to Bharat Electronics Ltd ‘s (BEL) campus with the help of government advisors, including the DRDO. I was surprised at the speed and ease with which the government issued directions, smoothened over supply chain disruptions and ensured supply from defence providers, who are capable of handling orders that require high quality and high precision. It also had a bit of a bootcamp feel as we had their engineers staying with us overnight; our people setting base at BEL’s factory,” Alva says.
The company first received a call from Niti Aayog on March 15, before the PM’s March 25 lockdown announcement, asking the company about its ventilator capacity. By the first few weeks of April, the government coordinated with various departments and helped kickstart production. Caught up in the spirit of doing their best for the pandemic, Skanray started production without any documentation.
“For an original medical equipment maker like us, our IP is a top-guarded trade secret. But seeing what the government was doing and the need of the hour, we shared our design with BEL engineers and DRDO. We were even willing to share with Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, any company volunteering to build ventilators,” says Alva.
Started as a 5-employee team, today Skanray employs over 700 people in 7 locations worldwide. In 2019, it did more than 100,000 installations worldwide of 50 different medical equipment including high-frequency X-ray imaging systems, surgical Carms, dental radiography systems, anaesthesia workstations, ECG machines and telemedicine devices.
For the Niti Aayog order, Alva says the state commissioner for industrial development, Gunjan Krishna, smoothed out local supply chain issues and payment hurdles. Mysuru DC, Abhiram G Shankar, ensured passes for the staff to commute.
The only fly in the ointment, Alva says, was the attitude of public sector banks. “The Union health secretary’s office itself arranged a call with a national bank in April. But even months later, the loan has not been sanctioned. Banks, he says, are indifferent to the issues of SMEs.