A shortage of PPE, specifically N95 and similar face masks, in the critical first weeks of Covid-19 hitting U.S. shores caused many manufacturers to shift their capabilities. Major companies like Ford, as well as smaller independent businesses, did their part to reduce the shortage and meet the demand created by widespread mask mandates. But as those mandates are lifted, some companies are now dealing with a surplus PPE.
Pivoting Production To Fill Critical Gaps
Back in the spring of 2020, many companies made truly impressive pivots: liquor and beer makers began producing hand sanitizer, fashion designers switched from sewing designer dresses to designer face coverings, sports equipment manufacturers began producing face shields, heavy equipment manufacturers devoted their resources to building respirators. The effects were powerful, with manufacturers of all types doing their part to fill in vital supply chain gaps within a matter of weeks.
A little over a year later, many of these companies are now returning their production spaces back to their former purposes. Their stockrooms and warehouses, however, are another matter. For many of these companies, stacks and upon stacks of face masks and shields, gloves, and other types of PPE are sitting and awaiting buyers.
But while these companies are eager to fill orders and clear their storage and shipping spaces, some healthcare providers are struggling to find PPE that’s remained in tenuous supply since the earliest days of the pandemic. The N95 mask in particular remains elusive for doctors, nurses, and other professionals who rely on this highly effective respirator mask. And yet, manufacturers are sitting with surpluses and cutting their standard product capacities.
A Disconnect Between Supply And Demand
The key disconnect between this unusually high supply and high demand is reportedly rooted in the supply chain and issues with larger distributors, like Amazon, impacting the flow of domestically manufactured products. Limited sales and distribution resources of smaller manufacturers have hindered connections with larger hospitals and organizations that are eager to place orders. And for many of these smaller mask manufacturing companies, their lack of name recognition has caused many large healthcare providers, hospitals, and clinics to overlook their N95 masks as a viable alternative to larger, internationally manufactured brands.
Compared to many of the cloth masks and non-regulated PPE used by ordinary people, N95 masks will remain essential even as mask mandates are lifted. The federal government is now making great efforts to connect smaller domestic manufacturers with healthcare facilities to remedy the supply chain gap.
What are your thoughts on the many supply chain issues that continue to impact all types of industries due to the pandemic? Comment and share your experiences.
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