Supply Chain Standouts: June 12th

June 12, 2020

We are starting this week’s shoutouts with a focus on global ingenuity. During the COVID-19 lockdown in Ghana, two brothers turned a recycled metal barrel into a solar-powered handwashing basin. Created in five days, the basin runs on a 25 second timer to ensure handwashing duration meets CDC guidelines. The government has contacted the brothers to explore manufacturing additional machines.

In Afghanistan, members of the Afghan Dreamers robotics team transformed car parts into ventilators. Inhabitants of Herat, the city where Afghanistan’s first COVID-19 cases appeared, the 14 and 17 year old girls produced a prototype using a motor from a Toyota Corolla and a chain drive from a Honda motorcycle. Compared to  the global price of ventilators which exceeds $30,000 (and are still in short supply) these innovators plan on selling their ventilators for a mere $600 once they complete hospital testing.

The manufacturing industry continues to demonstrate ingenuity as well, as manufacturers across the globe continue to pivot their production to support front-line workers. In Massachusetts, dozens of manufacturers have switched production to PPE.  For some of these organizaitons, such as Universal Plastics who were already in the medical business, the pivot was not so huge. For others, it was much more dramatic. Lovepop switched from making 3-D greeting cards to face shields virtually overnight. Meanwhile, MIT engineers developed a new ventilator system to help support multiple patients at once and could help hospitals more efficiently meet the demand.

Medical masks continue to be in short supply, a shortage that is only exacerbated by the fact that medical masks can only be used once. Elastomeric respirators – reusable silicon masks that have drawn comparisons to Darth Vader due to their appearance – have proven an effective and life-saving solution. One CDC researcher noted these masks “could substantially reduce the supply-demand gap.”

Finally, the significance and fragility of global supply chains has become a dinner table conversation due to the disruptions throughout the ongoing pandemic. At the consumer level, what began with runs on toilet paper, hand soap and sanitizer has slowly evolved as the pandemic persisted. Back in April, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said we had entered the hair color stage of quarantine purchasing spikes. The next hot commodity was Plexiglass as stores raced to reopen while maintaining worker and customer safety. Apparently, we are now entering the golf pushcart phase – and according to this piece, the “the U.S. has no strategic pushcart reserve.”

What might be the next hot commodity? Share your predictions with us on Twitter @InterosInc or on LinkedIn! 

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