Byfleet pump manufacturer plays key role in battling COVID crisis

A BYFLEET company is playing a key role in the treatment of people suffering from COVID-19 by making and supplying hospitals with vacuum pumps for medical ventilators.

Charles Austen Pumps has hugely increased production at its Royston Road factory to meet a fivefold increase in demand for suction devices for the NHS and medical facilities in the United States. It is by far the biggest maker of such machinery in Britain.

The production area in the Charles Austen Pumps factory at Byfleet

The company, which moved to Byfleet in 1954 and has roots going back to the end of the First World War, makes a wide range of pumps and has a long history of making medical equipment.

Fred Shepherd, the company’s business and brand development director, said that ventilators need medical suction devices if a hospital ward does not have a central vacuum.

“We have had to massively ramp up our production to try and meet the demand,” he added. “We’re also fighting the results of worldwide factory shortages and a lack of supply for materials and components for our pumps, as well as a crippled transport and shipping sector with reduced air freight opportunities at massively inflated prices.”

He said some of the suppliers’ factories were closed as they did not realise that their divisions helping to make suction pumps were critical.

There has also been an increase in demand for the company’s other medical division products used in sterilisation and in laboratories for tissue sampling and blood analysis.

Charles Austen has redeployed staff from divisions where work has decreased and has also widened its production areas so workers can follow social distancing regulations.

“We are not supplying to Europe, as our pumps have been prioritised to our customers supplying the NHS,” said Mr Shepherd. The company was supplying its long-standing US customer, which uses a different pump to the UK devices but for the same purpose.

“This allows us to build and source components without affecting our NHS support. We’re also still trying to fulfil our orders for other critical industries such as supermarket refrigeration condensate removal, wastewater treatment, food and drink and printing and packaging production.”

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