28 Apr 2021

 

 

Single-Use versus Reusable Garments: Which Provides Better Protection?

Did you know the highest causes of contamination in controlled environments are from the people who work there? This means the right garments are critical. While it may seem like the best option would be reusable garments since they are made using more substantial material that can be washed repeatedly, it turns out the sterilization process may cause them to deteriorate over time, leading to lower bacterial efficiency than their disposable counterparts.

With this in mind, Quest recommends replacing reusable garments with disposable ones for the following reasons:

Ultimate Protection
With each laundering and sterilization, the air permeability, bacteria barrier, and tear strength efficiency of reusable garments is reduced and particle shedding is increased. Disposable apparel arrives clean, hygienically packaged, and ready to use.

Consistent Quality
Disposable garments provide more uniform and dependable protection every single time. The quality of reusable garments is inconsistent. You never know what the protection level is, depending on where they are in their lifecycle

Peace of Mind
With disposal garments you know exactly what level of protection your employees are getting every time they don garments. Inventory and usage costs are easy to predict and manage over time

Click on the image to download our helpful graphic on reasons to choose disposable over reusable garments.

Don’t just take our word for it. The proof is in the data and fortunately, DuPont shared a video where they put reusable garments to the test. They conducted testing by laundering and sterilizing two new, reusable garments for 30 cycles and examined how well they held up. Here’s what they found.

Test #1: Air Permeability and Barrier on Reusable Garments
After 20 cycles, air permeability increased 5X (garment A) to 8X (garment B) based on the Frayser Air Permeability Test. This shows that garments become less airtight and less effective at bacterial filtration over time.

Test #2: Particle Shedding of Reusable Garments
After 30 cycles, there was a noticeable increase in particle shedding on fabric swatches cut from the tested reusable garments.

Test #3: Tear Strength
The tear strength of fabric cut from reusable polyester garments steadily decreased with each cycle. After 30 cycles, the tear strength dropped by 60%.

The takeaway? Single use garments provide more uniform and dependable protection, with consistent quality. Plus with single-use garments, both inventory and usage costs are easier to predict and manage over time. Taken all together, choosing disposable garments results in greater peace of mind when it comes to keeping your facilities contaminant free and running smoothly.

01 Mar 2021

These have been difficult months for logistic providers, businesses and consumers as shipping delays around the world have held up products and supplies with inventory levels being depleted. The shortage in containers and port delays are putting pressure logistic costs, which have generally doubled. “Supply chains may take several more months to return to some semblance of normality as inventory, now trapped further up the supply chain, will need to be cleared,” Ocean Insights’ Chief Operations Officer Josh Brazil reported in February.

Impact on International Shipping

Metrics such as carriers’ schedule reliability are worsening and cargo rollover rates are still on the rise. The average delay for containers increased from one day in January 2020, to more than five days in January 2021. More than 40 cargo ships with tens of thousands of containers were waiting at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in January reported Reuters, with an increase to 62 ships by late February. This has been similar at many US trade gateways.

Shipping Congestion in San Pedro Bay

The Chinese New Year has exacerbated COVID-19 related shipping delays outbound from China. The New Year celebrations now last a month as workers tend to take time off to visit distant homes. Internal travel restrictions imposed by Chinese authorities, requiring domestic travelers to quarantine for 14 days after traveling, has added a new bottleneck. Many Chinese factories have been totally closed for the month of February.

Global Schedule Reliability, declining since the middle of 2020, has not improved through February of this year. It appears that all 20 of the global ports for which Ocean Insights, a data analytics firm, collates data have seen a decline.

Global Schedule Reliability via Economic Times

“Huge numbers of medical supplies keep on coming along with furniture, appliances, construction material, landscaping, hot tubs and anything related to the outdoors,” said Mario Cordero, executive director at the Port of Long Beach. “Americans that have not been impacted by Covid will continue to spend and the surge could go on through late spring.” (The Wall Street Journal)

Industry executives say shipping rates have increased 50-100% and container rates have almost doubled. Quest Safety Products, a distributor based in Indianapolis, has even seen cancellations when their containers are rolled over because of overbooking but they are still charged cancellation fees. This is starting to result in price increases to the end-user of three to five percent.

On the Domestic Front

On the domestic front, according to FedEx, there are three major factors causing delays:

Heavy Package Volume

The pandemic has created record-breaking shipment volumes. As more people shop online to avoid crowds in stores, those numbers have grown even more. This has created shipping volumes that are taxing logistics networks nationwide, which may cause delays.

COVID-19 business closures

The pandemic continues to cause businesses around the country to close. If you need to send a shipment to an area that’s experiencing closures, contact your recipient before you ship to ensure they’re open and able to receive your package.

Weather and Other Service Disruptions

Seasonal weather events and other disruptions have occurred, causing delays for inbound and outbound shipments. Our top priorities are the safety and well-being of our team members and providing the best service to our customers.  

There has been a huge increase in freight volume since the economic contraction. As reported by FedEx, growth in eCommerce is driving small parcel growth. For 2021, FTR Transportation Intelligence forecasts an increase in truck loadings of about 5% and an increase in rates of about 8%. Spot rates are higher depending on disruptions and weather such as in February.

In Conclusion

Shipping delays have plagued 2020 and are likely to continue well into 2021 as inventory trapped in the supply chain becomes available and choke points, such as shipping ports, are cleared.

The expectation is that supply pressures will result in higher logistic costs. Expect these to be passed on to end-users. 

Maintaining inventory or accepting close alternatives are potential ways to overcome spot shortages that are occurring and likely to continue for some time. 

To maintain good customer relationships, it is important for suppliers to: 

  • Stay in close touch with their customers, keeping them advised of delays quickly so they can take possible steps to mitigate potential problems
  • Be honest and open about the delay
  • Offer close alternatives when possible 

Here at Quest Safety Products, we are working hard to stay ahead of supply chain issues to avoid passing the rising transportation costs off to our customers. If you are looking to diversify your supply chain with a secondary supplier, Quest is experienced in managing the Supplier Change Process to ensure a smooth addition. If this is something your organization is working though, we are here to help.

07 Jan 2021

This article focuses on some of the key trends and issues that are impacting workplace safety and will continue into 2021 and beyond. In summary:

  • Continued PPE Shortages: There are, and will continue to be, shortages of key personal protective equipment. These will include N95 masks, nitrile gloves, face shields, protective gowns, hand sanitizers, cleaning wipes, etc. Some supplies may be spotty and may have regional impact only.
  • Heightened Awareness: COVID has changed the world of workplace safety with workers being at higher risk, greater job insecurity, increasing concerns about family safety and more financial pressures; resulting in an unprecedented increase in awareness and public attention on workplace health & safety.  
  • Employee “Well-Being”: Leading organizations are starting to go beyond safety and even wellness. They have focused on safety for decades; more recently on employee wellness and supporting them in developing healthier lifestyles. With the new workplace realities, total employee “well-being” is emerging as balancing work and personal life is becoming more difficult with more stress, more anxiety and, unfortunately, people being unwell more often. 
  • Major Product Innovation Concepts: Several innovations became more popular. These include “Smart” PPE with sensors that monitor, collect, and record data in real time; products that allow for personal preferences; and products that increase workplace productivity.

Continued PPE Shortages

While the overall safety business will show a 6%-7% growth to $56B globally (Zion Research) driven by the Asia/Pacific region, some shortages are expected.  With Covid cases increasing and hitting new peaks around the world, the demand for certain PPE items is still very high; supply cannot keep up. The more significant of these include:

  • Disposable Masks: In 2019 850 tons of the material was used in disposable masks in the US. This is expected to increase to as much as 10,000 tons in 2021, satisfying perhaps 80% of demand ( www.ehs.com ). “N95s are still in high demand,” 3M Chief Executive Mike Roman told The Wall Street Journal. “We have more demand than we can supply.” 3M has quadrupled its production of N95 masks to 100 million a month, Honeywell is up to 20 million a month, and others are estimated at another 20 million per month.
  • Safety Gloves: Nitrile gloves have been in short supply since mid-year, with material cost increasing rapidly. Below are the prices paid by SW through midyear:

Since then supplies have tightened further, especially with Malaysia’s Top Glove Corporation, the world’s largest maker of rubber gloves, having had a two to four week closure as more than 2,000 factory workers were infected by the coronavirus (Malaysian Times). Ansell recently circulated the following on the supply and demand for exam and disposable gloves, indicating potential supply issues and price increases over the next 12–18 months.

  • Protective Clothing: According to Carmela Coyle, CEO of the California Hospital Association, COVID-19-related supply challenges will persist through 2022. “We have been challenged with shortages of isolation gowns, face shields, etc.” Because of the high demand in health care, material shortages have impacted availability of protective clothing and gowns beyond products for hospitals and frontline health care workers. Sporadic shortages in hand sanitizers and face shields have been reported, especially in certain regions.

The shortages, however, are unlikely to be as severe or widespread as in the spring. Hospitals, in particular are expecting rolling shortages of supplies such as specialized beds, disposable isolation gowns, masks and even thermometers.

What you can do:

Supply chain managers have reacted to these situations by (i) stockpiling extra inventory, (ii) developing multiple suppliers and, in some cases, (iii) turning to non-traditional manufacturers such as textile manufacturers where possible.

Heightened Awareness of Health & Safety

Clearly one result of COVID has been an unprecedented increase in awareness and public attention on workplace health & safety. This is creating a once in a generation opportunity to elevate safety in organizations to the benefit of today’s workforce and even future generations. 

Don Martin of DEKRA, which provides Testing, Inspection and Certification Services, summarized this well. There will be are three major changes with greater safety awareness (i) more attention to critical data and its  implications on safety and health, (ii) personal hygiene and area disinfection practices will increase and (iii) better preparedness for health emergencies. 

Robust safety programs will become more common and the four key elements in a successful safety program have always been: 

  1. Top management commitment, especially the CEO, and on- going attention to safety.
  2. The emergence of a safety champion who drives safety within an organization, most successful when this is the CEO; other leaders within the organization must be empowered to help build a strong safety culture.
  3. Employee buy-in and trust in the process; with initiatives to develop employee involvement in safety on a daily basis.
  4. Solid, regular, and open communication and feedback between the workers and top management so that issues are quickly identified and solutions found.

What you can do:

The difference in this COVID environment is the intense focus on workplace safety and the recognition of its importance—this should make it easier to implement successful safety programs. In a recent survey reported by Safety and Health Magazine, more than half of respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that employees generally comply with safety rules and policies, but view workplace safety as “someone else’s job.” There is still a gap to be filled—it is everyone’s job.

Employee “Well-Being”

Organizations at the forefront of employee and workforce relations are starting to look beyond Workplace Safety and even Employee Wellness to what is being called “Employee Well-Being.”

Workplace Safety got a solid boost in the early 1970’s with the establishment of OSHA and the emergence of safety regulations. Starting in the 1990’s more and more attention went to Employee Wellness as healthier employees would reduce sick leave and reduce health care costs. Programs here included more exercise facilities, quit-smoking programs, healthier eating, increased testing, etc. 

The grind of 2020 has impacted employee engagement and Gallup recorded an historic drop by the summer. This is the impact of the pandemic, political and ideological polarization, racial and economic inequality, etc. The key findings include:

  1. Employees fear for their physical well-being and PWC research showed that they fear getting sick from being at work.
  2. They are confronting isolation and loneliness, with a May 2020 Gallup showing that 47% felt worried and 24% felt lonely.
  3. Elevated stress levels have taken a toll on mental health with caring for families, children being at home, concerns about jobs, and fear of contracting COVID. According to recent research by Oracle, 78% of employees surveyed say that their mental health has been affected. 
  4. Further, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that about half of workplace accidents are partly attributable to drug abuse, and 11 percent of fatalities involve alcohol. Given their impact on safety, productivity, absenteeism, and morale—it makes sense that more companies are employing programs to provide treatment and support for affected workers. 
  5. This trend encompasses a shifting focus from detection to prevention. Safety programs have largely focused on detecting unsafe conditions, where companies spent more time mitigating risks after an accident. Now there is greater emphasis on prevention-based programs that emphasize education, training, and identifying issues before someone gets hurt.

What you can do:

Organizations need to be sensitive to these issues which are very likely to impact 2021. As the vaccine becomes more widely available and the country starts to get herd immunity, these may subside–but this is likely to take time. Well-being includes elements of mental health, a smooth return to the workplace, implementation of diversity and equity, and an overall positive employee experience within a defined purpose. This must go beyond just HR and should become a part of the role of line management.

Safety Product Innovation Trends

A key driver of the Safety and PPE business has always been product innovation. Some of the more significant trends in this area include:

  1. “Smart” PPE: This is emerging with the digital revolution and PPE with sensors are being introduced. They monitor, collect, and record biometric, location, and movement data in real time. These collect the same data as wearable devices, including the user’s heart rate, calories burned, steps walked, and blood pressure. This equipment can also track advanced metrics like the user’s blood alcohol content, blood oxygen levels, sweat levels, and vital signs. Next-generation smart PPE is expected to monitor workers’ fatigue and alertness. While there are some privacy concerns about how this data is collected and used by employers, monitoring factors that could contribute to accidents may significantly reduce the number of workplace accidents.
  1. PPE that helps improve worker productivity: This is a continuing trend to make PPE more comfortable, keep workers cooler or warmer depending on the environment, allow better and easier use of tools and machinery, etc.
  2. PPE that reflects workers’ personal preferences: This includes looser-fitting respirators that allow workers to wear facial hair, lighter fabrics and special textiles that enable clothing to meet protective standards while still providing style and comfort, more pastel colors especially for women.

In Conclusion

  • The coronavirus will continue to impact safety and PPE well into 2021 with the high COVID-related products being in much higher demand leading to shortage, though not as severe as last spring. 
  • The heightened awareness of health & safety and the recognition of its importance should make it easier to implement successful safety programs. 
  • Employee well-being, that is going beyond workplace safety and employee wellness is emerging and should expand rapidly. 
  • Finally the industry continues to innovate with “smart” PPE, helping to improve productivity and providing PPE that better meets personal preferences of the workforce.
15 Dec 2020

5 Benefits Your Vendor-Managed Inventory Partner Should Provide

 

The goal of a solid Vendor Management Inventory (VMI) program is to provide a mutually beneficial partnership between a supplier and its customer to ensure a smooth and accurate flow of goods between the two organizations. At Quest, we handle the complex challenges of inventory planning for customers operating in highly structured industries such as pharma and life sciences, where stocking levels can impact the bottom line.

At a time when keeping your workers, facilities, and products safe means ensuring you have the inventory you need to stay operational, partnering with a trusted VMI team can be a powerful tool in making sure your workers have what they need when they need it. To help make sure you are getting the most out of your VMI program, we are sharing five key benefits your Vendor-Managed Inventory partner should provide.

1. Increased Service Tailored to Your Unique Needs
A solid VMI program should always ensure you have no more and no less than what is absolutely needed to have onsite. When we kickoff a new VMI partnership here at Quest, we assign a VMI Specialist who is focused on a customer’s most important product and stocking needs. Rather than taking control away from the customer, we work together to analyze monthly usage needs to determine minimum and maximum inventory levels.

2. Improved Operational Efficiencies
The main benefit of VMI is to help your business run smoother and operate more efficiently. This can mean different levels of service for different organizations. At Quest, we can have VMI specialists perform inventory counts and deliveries each week, or we can have a specialist located onsite at all times. With part-time and full-time VMI, customers can focus their employees’ efforts on the work that generates company revenue. Additionally, VMI teams can help identify issues such as product expiration dates, tracking lot numbers, and managing important paperwork such as Certificate of Conformity.

3. Reduced Inventory Overstocks & Stock Shortages
VMI removes the need for the customer to have significant backup stock because the vendor manages the resupply lead times. Lower inventories for the customer can translate to significant cost savings.

Quest’s VMI team stocks and tracks customer inventory to ensure they have the products they need when they need them. Many times VMI teams are used in time-sensitive industries that also have regulatory demands. A pharmaceutical manufacturing production line running out of supplies can cause that line to shut down temporarily, costing the company tens of thousands of dollars. A strong VMI team ensures that doesn’t happen.

4. Onsite Technical Expertise
Working with a VMI specialist who understands your business is key. Quest carefully assigns a team specifically trained to work within your industry. This way, you can be sure the VMI team understands the requirements of your business, the timeframes you work under, and how product stocking affects your employees, products, and bottom line. If a problem arises with a product, VMI specialists with technical experience understand possible implications and can react quickly to offer various solutions.

5. Financial Transparency
Your vendor’s Sales and VMI team should be meeting with you regularly so you are aware of what stock is being used in your company and how much of it. They can also help explain why product changes were made by your safety managers or industrial hygienists. Quest performs site-specific reporting and spend usage that allows our customers to make better-informed business decisions and eliminate wasteful, non-value adding factors and other costs associated with inventory errors.

Better communication, inventory accuracy, forecasting and overall service are all possible through VMI. A good VMI partnership should create a service that has considered all aspects of the supply chain and any areas for concern so that the customer can focus on what they do rather than making sure they have the supplies they need to safely do it. To get the most out of a VMI program, be sure to work with a vendor that has experience in your industry. Your vendor should always have their finger on the pulse so when it’s time to source new or additional items, they have you covered. If you’re interested in learning how VMI can keep your business operating smoothly, our team can help.

09 Dec 2020

How Quest is Minimizing the Impact of Rising PPE Prices and Supply Chain Shortages

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for single-use gloves and garments so dramatically, manufacturers are struggling to keep up. As we move into winter and face a surging positivity rate across the US, the gap between supply and demand will continue to grow.

The result will be higher costs driven by:

A high global demand that has tripled due to more stringent protocols in healthcare and frontline workers as well as governments stockpiling PPE across the globe.

A limited global supply due to a lack of manufacturing capabilities. Manufacturers typically produce 370 billion gloves a year, but an estimated 585 billion gloves are needed to meet global demand.

A shortage of raw materials—specifically anything made with polypropylene material—is driving up costs by 30%-50% and is expected to continue to rise.

An increase in production costs as manufacturers struggle to attract workers due to labor shortages, quarantines, and the cost of keeping workers safe. Additionally, distribution and logistics costs are increasing.

Quest Safety Products has developed a deep understanding of the pharmaceutical industry’s needs and requirements through technical training and decades of experience. This enables Quest to be hyper-focused on what impacts pharmaceutical customers at this time and source high-quality PPE alternatives during recent supply chain outages.

Learn how Quest is working to minimize the impact of rising PPE prices and supply chain shortages so you can keep your workers safe. Read more.

16 Nov 2020
Pharma worker in face mask and glasses

Supply Chain Disruption: Single-Sourcing Is No Longer a Solution

Managing disrupted supply chains is top of mind and has become more and more important for PPE, medical supplies, and other “essential” products. As COVID-19 cases spike around the country, the increased need for supplies will challenge supply chains again. In recent surveys, 94% of the Fortune 1000 companies have reported seeing coronavirus-driven supply chain disruptions and 56% of CFOs identified this as a key issue facing their company. Risk mitigation has become critical.

"The pandemic has been and will continue to be a major shock to global supply chains and sourcing strategies." -Harvard Business Review

When supply chains are disrupted, those who single source, in particular, suffer most. There are many examples of this especially for PPE and medical supplies. In times of shortages, most suppliers focus on their core customers. Many U.S. businesses are looking for multiple suppliers including ones in Mexico and Central America. Their proximity makes them more attractive, with lower shipping costs, no duties, and imports that aren’t on the high seas for weeks at a time. In other categories, Apple is moving a part of its supply chain to India. Indonesia has made dramatic changes to become more “business-friendly." This is what PwC and AmCham call a ‘China+1’ strategy.

In situations like a pandemic, companies need multiple suppliers, particularly for essential supplies. Spikes in demand, temporary trade restrictions, and shortages of critical supplies make consistent supply less reliable. A McKinsey survey shows that 93% of supply chain leaders are looking to improve resilience by dual sourcing (53%), increasing inventory of critical items (47%), nearshoring and increasing their supply base (40%), and regionalizing supply chains (38%).

WHERE TO START

With the COVID-19 spikes, the time to add an additional supplier is now.  According to McKinsey, “Actions taken now to mitigate the impact on supply chains can also build resilience against future shocks.” 

"Without data, you're just another person with an opinion." -W. Edwards Deming

Identify

To begin, businesses must identify at a granular level the items that are at high risk and develop a realistic plan going forward. It is necessary to critically review requirements to identify those that are sourced from high-risk areas and lack ready substitutes. McKinsey recommends developing a risk index for each based on the uniqueness and location of suppliers.

Research

Once you have identified your critical items, there are several factors to consider anytime you add a supplier to your supply chain. There are companies that typically specialize in certain industries or geographies. Finding one that has a deep knowledge and experience in your industry and understands the unique challenges your company faces will help to shorten the onboarding. These companies that already know your industry have experienced staff that is technically trained so they are hyper-focused on what impacts customers.

Learn

In addition to aligning with a company already familiar with your industry, you want to partner with suppliers that diversify their own supply chains in order to provide your company with peace of mind that they can deliver the products you need. They continuously monitor critical-to-business products and practices to limit disruptions and prepare for changes. A company that can provide you with demand forecasting and reports usage information by working closely with customers and manufacturers alike help to limit challenges in the future.

PARTNERING WITH SUPPLIERS

Once you have found a reliable supplier, commit to being transparent and responsive. Suppliers that make good partners often use the same protocol for their own supply chains. Due to their position in the marketplace, they can report potential issues to customers before they can negatively impact the safety of employees or pharmaceutical production. Decision-makers and manufacturers that foster frequent and transparent communication have better outcomes.

Another good practice for both suppliers and customers is to purchase and warehouse additional inventory on items that may have emerging supply constraints. Your supplier should be able to work with you to mitigate most risk. Often is the case in shortages, COVID-19 related products have been placed on a restricted-access list and purchases of these must be cleared by senior management; priority for COVID-19 products typically goes to top customers.

SUPPLY CHAIN RESISTENCE

Most companies are assessing their supply chains and taking action to improve resilience. As a start, they are identifying the products and materials that are at high risk and developing realistic plans going forward. Gartner has identified six strategies. Some best practices include:

  • Diversifying sources for critical components and materials; this includes geographic diversification, partnering with the same supplier, or using secondary sources. Those highly dependent on China are considering a China+1 strategy.
  • Building higher levels of safety stock or strategic inventory reserves of, at the least, critical supplies and “essential” items.
  • Multiple- sourcing, especially for high-risk items, and building partnerships with a few suppliers. In addition to reducing disruption risks, this can have additional benefits such as access to more capabilities, more ideas for cost reductions, etc.
  • They are ensuring that transportation is not a bottleneck. This is one reason companies are looking to have supply options closer to home.

Gartner supply chain resilience chart

05 Oct 2020

Restructuring Disrupted Supply Chains: Single Sourcing is No Longer a Solution

Supply chain management is a critical factor in many businesses’ long-term success, and the COVID-19 global pandemic has wreaked havoc across many industries. When a disaster strikes, everyone suffers: buyers and suppliers alike. Managing disrupted supply chains is top of mind, but it has become more important than ever for companies dealing with PPE, medical supplies, and other “essential” products. In recent surveys, 94% of the Fortune 1000 companies have reported seeing coronavirus-driven supply chain disruptions, and 56% of CFOs identified this as a key issue facing their company (PwC). Risk mitigation has become critical.

“The pandemic has been and will continue to be a major shock to global supply chains and sourcing strategies.” –The Harvard Business Review

When supply chains are disrupted, those who single source, in particular, suffer. There are numerous examples of where this has become an issue, especially for PPE and medical supplies. Many US businesses are looking at the Far East, Mexico, and Central America for additional suppliers. In other categories, Apple is moving a part of its supply chain to India. Indonesia has made dramatic changes to become more “business-friendly.” Mexico and Central America’s proximity makes them more attractive, with lower shipping costs, no duties, and imports that aren’t on the high seas for weeks at a time. PwC and AmCham call this a ‘China+1’ strategy.

Companies are identifying items at risk, developing realistic plans for moving forward, becoming more flexible and agile, gaining greater visibility to suppliers, and more accessible processes for onboarding new ones.

MULTIPLE SOURCING PARTNERSHIPS ENSURE EFFICIENT SUPPLY CHAINS

Quest Safety Products has been proactive in managing its supply lines and inventory by leveraging and expanding its sourcing partnerships.

The Power of the Network

Quest Safety leverages the power of the SafetyNetwork buying group of 55 members. This gives Quest access to manufacturers’ and suppliers’ top-level decision-makers. The buying group shares available inventory to meet customer demand and shares best-in-class, next-level suppliers outside the buying group. The size of the buying group’s orders allow them to negotiate large volume buys such as an N95 mask program with Honeywell or a Container Purchase Program for Nitrile gloves. With 55 members in the networks, customers receive excellent service nearly anywhere in the country.

Global Supply Relationships

Quest Safety works directly with overseas manufacturers to reduce costs and increase availability. We have long-standing relationships with Far East manufacturers. Quest is also in discussions with leading manufacturers in Mexico and Central America to strengthen the supply chain and ensure continuity. Samples are being manufactured for a number of products to ensure quality. These global relationships also help our company better understand events or disruptions occurring outside the US.

Transparent Communication

Quest Safety understands the importance of transparent communication, especially related to the products customers need to operate. This includes discussing any potential issues before they negatively impact the safety of their employees or pharmaceutical production.

COVID-19-related products are on a restricted-access list, and purchases must be cleared by senior management at Quest and top customers get priority.

UNIQUE SUPPLY CHAIN REQUIREMENTS OF THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

Quest Safety Products has developed a deep understanding of the pharmaceutical industry’s needs and requirements through technical training and decades of experience. This enabled Quest to be hyper-focused on what impacts pharmaceutical customers at this time and source high-quality PPE alternatives during recent supply chain outages.

Quest has a conference call with PPE manufacturers every two weeks to understand the supply chain status and work through challenges. The company continually monitors critical-to-business products and practices, doing this every two weeks or monthly with the customer’s end-users or usage committee group. Consistent communication allows Quest to provide demand forecasting and reports usage information by working closely with customers and manufacturers to ensure a smooth flow of information.

MITIGATE RISK THROUGH A CONSISTENT SUPPLY

Most companies are assessing their supply chains and taking action to improve resilience. As a start, they are identifying – at a granular level – the products and materials that are high risk and developing realistic plans going forward. In summary, best practices include:

  • Diversifying sources for critical components and materials; this includes geographic diversification, partnering with the same supplier, or using secondary sources.
  • Those highly dependent on China are considering a China+1 strategy.
    Building higher levels of safety stock or strategic inventory reserves of, at the least, critical supplies and “essential” items.
  • Multiple-sourcing, especially for high risk items, and building partnerships with a few suppliers. In addition to reducing disruption risks, this can have additional benefits such as access to more capabilities, more ideas for cost reductions, etc.
  • Ensuring that transportation is not a bottleneck. This is one reason companies are looking to have supply options closer to home.

When a pharmaceutical company needs to consider adding a vendor to guarantee they get the products they need, Quest is experienced in managing the Supplier Change Process to ensure a smooth addition. If this is something your organization is working though, we are here to help.

Founded in 1997, Quest Safety Products is a full-line distributor and manufacturer of safety products, disposable garmenting, and equipment for any environment that requires safety equipment, risk mitigation or hazmat protection. Quest is a certified SBA HUBZone company, Board Member of AD SafetyNetwork Buying Group, and PSCI member company – Audited. Award winner from Eli Lily, AstraZeneca, NMSDC, HUBZone Council and SBA.

22 Sep 2020

Safety & Personal Protective Equipment Post-Pandemic

Safety and PPE have been at the forefront for governments, health care systems and C-suites across the world. Wearing masks to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 has been highly recommend and even mandated. For your own personal protection gloves, hand sanitizers, using cleaning wipes and regular hand washing are essential. Occupational Safety and PPE will continue to be critical as the economy starts to open. A major discontinuity is the heightened awareness and need for cleanliness and hygiene which, experts agree, is likely to continue well beyond the virus.

-Rahul Kapur Ex-Chief Strategy Officer, Aearo Technologies (now 3M) Managing Director, Icon Investment Partners Senior Advisor, &Marketing, Crossroad Transactions July 2020

HOW THE WILL THE PANDEMIC CHANGE SAFETY AND PPE?

There have been unprecedented changes in the Safety and PPE over the last few months. Many of these are expected to continue as economies around the globe start to re-open – probably in fits and starts as there have been, and will be, local flare ups of the virus. Learning on better treatment of the virus has, thankfully, reduced the number of people passing away. Many of these changes are likely to be more permanent in nature or at least last for several years.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role of workplace safety – starting with health care but in industries across America and the world. As companies reopen it is important to communicate with returning workers to make them aware of the safety measures in place, how to comply with them and that proper personal protective equipment and general cleaning materials such as soap and hand sanitizer are available. It should be clear who within the company will answer questions that will arise.

OSHA has already published guidelines that include what workers should understand about the virus. It is offering free on-site consulting for small to mid-size companies. As per OSHA, health care workers are at the highest risk followed by “workers with high-frequency interaction with the general public” (e.g., schools, restaurants and retail establishments, travel and mass transit, etc.). In many cases office workers are continuing to work-from-home where possible, but others returning to their work sites. Strict protocols need to be in place to these protect these workers, especially those at greater risks such as certain age groups and those with certain health histories.

OSHA Guidlines

Employers should ensure that their workers understand:

  • Differences between seasonal epidemics and worldwide pandemic disease outbreaks;
  • Which job activities may put them at risk for exposure to sources of infection;
  • What options may be available for working remotely, or utilizing an employer’s flexible leave policy when they are sick;
  • Social distancing strategies, including avoiding close physical contact (e.g., shaking hands) and large gatherings of people;
  • Good hygiene and appropriate disinfection procedures;
  • What personal protective equipment (PPE) is available, and how to wear, use, clean and store it properly;
  • What medical services (e.g., vaccination, post-exposure medication) may be available to them; and
  • How supervisors will provide updated pandemic-related communications, and where to direct their questions.

Increased Demand for PPE

Demand for PPE such as masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, cleaning wipes and hand sanitizers has sharply increased since these are the only products that can protect you from contracting the disease until vaccinations are available. This will take time. Given the stringent social distancing rules more widespread usage of PPE is crucial. This is especially true as the economy re-opens and if there is a second wave of infections. PPE products will be worn by individuals plus there will be demand by companies as people return to work after the lockdowns. Workplace safety is a major concern and, for now, PPE usage is the only option.

The PPE market is estimated to be $46 billion in 2019 according to a MarketsandMarkets report and should grow to $58 billion by 2022, at a compounded annual growth rate of over 6.5%. 

Supply issues around PPE were a major factor in the initial months, especially imports from China. Those that were aggressive in finding supplies gained not only in sales but also their customers’ gratitude.

More and more end-users are approving secondary suppliers and SKUs as part of their Risk Mitigation program as well as setting up monthly meetings with suppliers to get updates on the key product supplies.

A number of companies stepped up to expand manufacturing capabilities and increase production. This includes the traditional safety companies like 3M, Honeywell and Draeger as well as a number of new entrants, many of whom saw the opportunity to help their country in a time of shortage. This particularly includes those with sewing capability, those with the ability to bottle hand sanitizers and companies who could manufacture sophisticated ventilators. Good examples are Eddie Bauer, Nike, American Seating, Graffiti Shield, My Pillow, Jim Beam and even GM & Ford.

Long Term Change Expected

Based on my experience working with safety companies, research conducted and perspectives from prominent voices in safety by Safety+Health magazine there are four more significant longer-term changes expected:

  • Personal hygiene and area disinfection practices will become a part of the routine for the foreseeable future.
  • Strict protocols and administrative controls will be required & enforced for locations with more than a certain number of people.
  • Company and organizational policies will be needed for activities such as employee travel, sanitizing, disinfecting, additional training requirements and using/leveraging technology for safety.
  • Many PPE companies faced serious problems with their supply chains; particularly those importing from China. Now is certainly not the time for single sourcing. Many are seeking alternatives in Mexico and Central America. Other Far Eastern countries are becoming potential suppliers.

There are likely to be more guidelines developed by the CDC, OSHA, etc. to help organizations deal with this emerging “new normal.”

Beyond these, there will be other changes in occupational safety that business leaders should be considering. These include:

  • More and more companies will improve their Disaster Preparedness Plans starting with an evaluation of how they reacted to this pandemic and what they learned. The pandemic has forced Disaster Preparedness Plans from being “nice to have” to an essential.
  • There will be continuing updates to product standards, new workplace protection requirements and guidance, federal and state policy enhancements, and strategic undertakings by the PPE industry and governments to increase preparedness efforts. Following these will be important.
  • With these new guidelines, safety professionals will need to ensure that procedures to verify these practices are in place and performed properly. Primary these will include ensuring social distancing and barriers if people cannot meet distance requirements (shields at retail establishments are a good example). Other guidelines may emerge as we gain new knowledge about the virus.
  • Safety training will increasingly go online and innovative methods are evolving. Internet training will push beyond clicking a PowerPoint to become more interactive and with live demonstrations. Knowledge checks will be incorporated.
  • There will be safety implications on working from home. These are not yet clear.

Strategic Implications for PPE Providers

So what does this mean for PPE providers as they navigate through these uncertain times? Here are somethings that business leaders should be thinking about.

Fixing disrupted supply chains is mission critical. PPE was not alone. This affected almost every company. Out of the Fortune 1000 companies, 94% reported seeing coronavirus-driven supply chain disruptions (Fortune, 2020). There is increasing discussion on domestic manufacturing of “essential supplies” with PPE near or at the top of the list. While moving completely away from China may be difficult, more diversified supply chains are emerging. Companies are looking at the East Asia, Mexico and Central America. Mexico and Central America’s proximity makes them more attractive with lower shipping costs and imports not being on the high seas for four weeks. This is what PwC, AmCham call a ‘China+1’ strategy.

Selling PPE at retail and online will exponentially expand. These channels are becoming more and more important to tap into the consumer demand for masks, gloves, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizers, etc. Sales of these products have exploded on Amazon, even gas stations are stocking them. More and more companies are starting to sell direct from their websites.

The winners will be those who innovate. This creativity can already be seen in face masks where a tremendous range of products are already available. These include colors, designs, and logos. Many are reusable and there are even copper infused masks that are “breathable with a double-layer barrier.”

A number of COVID Safety Kits have been introduced. These include an employee safety kit with a selection of safety products for people returning to the workplace by Arbill, Samsara Luggage globally launched Essentials for COVID for travelers, and here at Quest we are introducing kits targeted at several uses.

There have been other recent innovations, including (i) antimicrobial scrubs for medical staff and scrubs with anti-chafe stitching, four-way stretch, articulated knees, and stretch waistbands that enable greater mobility and increased comfort; (ii) antimicrobial respirator masks where silver and copper act as antimicrobial agents that kill and inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungus; and (iii) surgical gloves with perforation indicators and a higher level of protection using double gloving.

Maintaining relationships with new customers. Many PPE companies, especially distributors, have gained new customers especially where they had much needed supply. Continuing to build these new relationships can be an opportunity for growth. Here a combination of Account Based Marketing (ABM), sales force efforts and Inside Sales programs and help. ABM is a strategic marketing approach that targets a set of customer via digital marketing to build awareness and uses content marketing to build brand image at multiple levels in the customer’s organization.

In Conclusion

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has emerged as the only normal way to step outside when the world is faced with the highly infectious coronavirus. The major trends that are likely to persist are increased personal hygiene and area disinfection practices, strict protocols and controls will be required & enforced where larger numbers of people congregate, policies will be needed for activities where there is employee interaction with the general public, additional training will be required and supply issues will need to be fixed. Retail and on-line sales of selected PPE products to individuals and small businesses will be a more significant opportunity. Innovation, that meets consumer and end-users needs, will be crucial. Finally PPE companies have gained customers in these unprecedented times and should make an effort to build relationships with them.

About the Author

Rahul Kapur has 40+ years of successful business experience spanning a variety of areas. As a business consultant, he provides companies of all sizes with his expertise in strategy development, M&A, new products & innovation, and data analysis and modeling. His experience includes Unilever, Dow Chemical and Aearo Technologies (now 3M). He is Managing Director of Icon Investment Partners, Chairman of Guilford Group, Managing Member of Ark Capital Investments, LLC, and Senior Advisor for &Marketing, Crossroad Transactions, and Quest Safety Products, as well as on the boards of several start-ups.