A NORTH-EAST company has produced a “Herculean effort” to meet an emergency order to manufacture beds for a new hospital caring for coronavirus patients in Manchester.

ALM Engineering Solutions, based at Newton Aycliffe, is delivering 150 beds to Manchester’s Nightingale Hospital, which has been created as part of the NHS response to dealing with the pandemic.

The County Durham business, established in 1994, normally provides precision machined components, mainly for the aerospace, defence, nuclear, rail, automotive and sub-sea industries.

It had never made beds before, but staff sprung into action once the emergency call for help came in from an existing customer, the Medical Installation Group (MIG). ALM normally works with MIG to produce cubicles for use in the NHS but the request to manufacture beds was something new.

The ALM team designed, built and tested a prototype within 36 hours and Tony Thompson, founder and managing director, said: “It’s not something we’ve been asked to do before, but the staff were amazing in the way they responded.

“It’s been a case of all hands to the pump, and it’s just about had us on our knees at times, but everyone pulled together magnificently. It really has been a Herculean effort.”

The initial call from MIG was made at 9pm on Tuesday, March 31, and ALM’s two design engineers drew up a prototype the next day. Materials were ordered, a prototype manufactured, load-testing carried out, 3D images prepared, and the company was ready to go by the following Friday afternoon.

The order wasn’t confirmed until teatime on Monday, and a wagon was hired to go to Birmingham to collect the metal tubing from the only supplier in the country. ALM then sub-contracted the laser-cutting to the Impress Group, on Tyneside, and the tube bending to a company in Oldham.

ALM also had to buy a special high-speed steel-cutting saw, with staff working a 20-hour shifts last Thursday to complete the manufacturing process.

Despite the company having been forced to furlough around 60 per cent of its 38-strong workforce due to the economic impact of the lockdown, the first batch of beds was successfully delivered to the Nightingale hospital on Saturday.

By last night, 105 beds had been delivered, with the rest due to be transported to Manchester today, ready for the first patients arriving. Confirmation for another 100 beds to be delivered to a hospital in London is also pending.

Meanwhile, ALM Engineering Solutions, a subsidiary of ALM Products Ltd, has now been asked by MIG to produce designs for intravenous drip stands.

“Everyone appreciates that this is a huge responsibility in unprecedented circumstances and the staff have all just got on with it – I’m really proud of them,” said Mr Thompson.