Horacio Enriquez, Chairman, Suppliers Council, BSMA
What is most important for Healthcare professionals in this crisis? You see the images of these brave people on television, the Internet, and Online, and read about it daily. Protection of the healthcare professionals and first responders is of the greatest concern as they are dedicated to saving human lives. Ensuring the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – gloves, masks, face shields, gowns, and personal hygiene products, such as hand sanitizer and soap, disinfectants, wipes, and paper products – are critical. Healthcare professionals are becoming a critical resource within the supply chain. Increased engagement with infected patients and hazardous materials & decontamination service providers are onerous matters for monitoring and support.
Governmental Handling of the National Supply Chain
Government Engagement in the National Supply Chain. The invocation of the Defense Production Act is a necessary effort to expedite and increase manufacturing capacity for critical items, such as ventilators, personal hygiene products, surface disinfectant products, masks & PPE from the U.S. industrial base. Availability and lead times for these products are growing and alternates are under review across the manufacturing and distribution network.
California Executive Order N-31-20 is the initiative Governor Gavin Newsom of California has enacted to ensure key commodities and materials are delivered to California retailers and consumers in a timely manner during the COVID-19 crisis. It essentially eases restrictions on commercial drivers engaged in support of our current emergency relief efforts. Besides enabling the prioritization of transportation of food for emergency re-stocking of stores, other critical materials are highlighted as follows:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants
- Equipment, supplies, and people necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19
The Order comes in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s emergency waiver announced last week to ensure the free flow of critical supplies and equipment. The executive order also suspends existing law for employers directly impacted by COVID-19 and directs the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to provide guidance to impacted employees.
EPA Bulletin List N: Disinfectants for Use against SARS-CoV-2 – List N includes products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. When procuring a product for personal and commercial use, people and organizations can check if its EPA registration number is included on this list. If you have a match and the product can be used against SARS-CoV-2, these products may be marketed and sold under different brand names. But if they have the same EPA registration number, they are the same product. The EPA is continuously reviewing, testing, qualifying, and adding products to List N.
Supplier and Manufacturing Engagement
Based on recent Local, State, and National Government mandates, manufacturers and distributors, including Clorox, Diversey, Spartan, Gojo, Hospeco, and Waxie, are transitioning to the Re-prioritization of materials to Healthcare, Hospitals, and First Responders.
- Distributors and Manufacturers are asking other sectors/industries to remove/cancel orders or expect extended lead-times on many items. We are seeing this with PPE such as N95 Respirators and N95 Masks, Sanitizing equipment (such as Clorox360 Sanitizers) and other items.
- Distributors and Manufacturers are citing price increases and “pre-paid” conditions to continue business with existing Customers and not accepting any new Customers. Downstream organizations within the supply chain are limiting and fighting off these ordering conditions and impact where possible and minimizing and/or absorbing price increases to ultimate customer and clients.
Much of this type of PPE inventory was under more manual Vendor Managed Inventory, Consignment, and MIN/MAX management and not within integrated business systems. As a result, organizations are now struggling to evaluate all inventory on-hand, resulting in slow, manual supply/demand assessments (and response to order management).
Freight Forwarding and Logistics
There are increasing issues with keeping port, rail, and truck lanes open as companies are constrained with an increase in people who are sick, not working, and/or refusing to work. In some cases, materials are available, but the mode of transportation is quickly becoming a constraint as people are not available within the “Last Mile” and even the “Last Quarter Mile”.
Increased and expanded COVID-19 Manufacturing and Distribution & Logistics
Companies such as Hanes are retrofitting existing manufacturing plants to produce necessary COVID-19 PPE and equipment. We also see companies like Anheiser Busch and Heretic Brewing transforming their beer manufacturing operations into hand sanitizer production lines. It is unclear when companies like 3M and Honeywell will be able to ramp up N95 masks and the efforts that non-safety & PPE companies will help. Many companies, small and large, offering to produce PPE in recent days have specified that their production is intended to help hospitals, healthcare, and first responders. While it is unclear these items will meet regulatory and medical requirements, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the newer production by non-traditional safety and PPE manufacturing companies are acceptable in times of shortage. Traditional breweries and spirits distilleries are sourcing the key ingredients for the hand sanitizer recipe approved by the World Health Organizations producing denatured ethanol, glycerin, distilled water and hydrogen peroxide – and many local, and national chemical companies are supporting the increase in demand (for now). Retrofitting production lines or asking for volunteers to help convert bottles into tabletop hand-pump dispensers and gallon containers is taking place.
People are becoming a constrained resource and the ability to replace and/or augment existing staff with new people is also becoming a challenge. People are concerned about presumptive or confirmed cases of the infection, and whether or not it is worth the risk to take on a TEMP in a hospital, healthcare, or make-shift first responder environment. Organizations seeking staff are asked to allow additional time for employee vetting, background checks, drug-testing and general on-boarding of new employees. Many of these activities are dependent on government agencies and Reference Test Labs capacity, such as of Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp.
COVID-19 HazMat/Decontamination Service Providers
Companies have partnered with multiple service vendors to support varying COVID-19 response needs, including the following national and regional service providers in support of Hazardous Materials and Decontamination Operations:
Governments and Private Industry are both focused on keeping our healthcare, hospital, and first responder staff safe.
We all need to play our part!