By Stephen Nellis
(Reuters) - General Motors Co <GM.N> has tapped thermal camera maker Flir Systems Inc <FLIR.O> for scanners to detect fevers among workers when they return to GM's factories, the companies told Reuters on Wednesday.
General Motors said it will deploy a total of 377 Flir scanners across 72 sites. The cameras scan workers for high temperatures from several feet away in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The pandemic has shuttered many of GM's North American plants, but company officials on Wednesday outlined plans to restart production on May 18.
Jeffery Hess, GM's corporate medical director, told Reuters that when employees prepare to enter the factory floor, they will be required to sanitize their hands, don a mask and goggles, answer several questions about possible symptoms and then undergo a temperature check.
Once employees have been trained on the new entry procedure, the entire process takes between 30 and 45 seconds, GM officials said. At full operating levels, GM has about 85,000 employees in the United States, and when combined with contractors, about 100,000 people enter its plants each day.
“We can get a couple hundred people through the door rapidly" using fever scanners, Hess said. “Some facilities have 1,000 people on a shift. That's a lot of people to get through the door.”
Hess said the company will use medical-grade thermometers to double-check any thermal temperature scans that come in over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Cameras are being combined with other measures such as giving workers time to sanitize their workstation each shift and social distancing measures, Hess said.
Until the coronavirus pandemic, the bulk of thermal camera sales were for military or industrial purposes. GM said 89 of its Flir scanners were devices it already had on hand for research or manufacturing operations that were being re-purposed.
But now sales are booming. Flir Chief Executive James J. Cannon said on the company's corporate earnings call Wednesday that Flir saw about $100 million in bookings for coronavirus-related cameras and sensors. Reuters previously reported Flir was working with Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> to supply fever scanners, but Flir said it could not comment on any potential relationship with Amazon.
Thermoteknix Systems Ltd from the United Kingdom has won deals with Tyson Foods Inc <TSN.N>, and Santa Barbara, California-based Seek Thermal said sales in the first four months of 2020 were two-and-a-half times that of the previous year.
"Hopefully, it will keep people who really do have a fever from going to work sick," Seek co-founder Bill Parrish told Reuters.
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler)