The emergency request to build manual transmissions for ambulances at the start of the COVID-19 crisis in China arrived at a Magna plant in late January. Putting aside their fears and family New Year’s celebrations, 80 employees at the Getrag Jiangxi Transmission (GJT) plant in Nanchang hurried to get the lifesaving order filled in record time.
Zhiguang Chen, a 31-year-old group foreman and workshop dispatcher, was one of them. Together with his wife, who was pregnant with twins, he took the train from his hometown in Ganzhou and arrived in Nanchang on January 28. He went straight to the factory to check equipment and make sure everything was in order for the other workers, who would arrive the next day.
“When I saw my colleagues, I wasn’t afraid anymore,” said Chen, who worked shifts on the shop floor during the effort. “All we could think about was how to finish this huge task in a short time. Everyone had volunteered to help in the fight against COVID-19. We knew we had to make our own contribution.”
His wife, Cao Xiao Hua, called often to remind him to wash his hands and make sure his workstation was disinfected. But that proved to be unnecessary.
“There was such care and attention to detail from top management,” Chen explained. “Rigid safety controls were in place and we were supported with disinfection protocols, masks and safety glasses. The employees who couldn’t return home due to the quarantine were put up in company dormitories and supplied with food and daily items.”
In ordinary times, it would take about 10 days to build 1,700 transmissions. The team did it in just eight. The first ambulances were sent to Wuhan, China and the moment was full of emotion for the team. One of its members had relatives in Wuhan who were suffering from COVID-19. When they recovered, everyone felt relief.
Local TV reporters heard about the ambulance story and rushed to showcase the accomplishment on the news. Chen and several others won the “model laborer of the year” award from Jiangling Motors Corp., the customer who placed the emergency order.
A satisfying footnote to the story happened in August, when Chen’s twin sons were born. The babies are thriving. Their names are Mike and Mile, inspired by the Chinese phrase “to be happy.”
Zhiguang Chen, group foreman and workshop dispatcher at Magna Getrag Jiangxi and his new family.