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News Article

A Lesson in PPE Distribution Logistics

By Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 04/28/2020 - 18:50

Effective and efficient personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution continues to be a headache for governments and companies worldwide trying to combat COVID-19. BBC reports today that Russian leader Vladimir Putin admitted to a PPE shortage despite claims of increased production and imports of this type of equipment. His statement coincided with his announcement that he was extending his nation’s lockdown period until May 11. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported last week on a similar PPE shortage in the UK and the controversy surrounding possible healthcare worker deaths. In the US, PPE distribution is varying greatly from state to state and even from hospital to hospital. For example, CNN reported last week that a recent Veteran Affairs memo highlighted that PPE shortages are common all over that nation’s military hospitals. 

How exactly health government facilities and other institutions could best prevent and mitigate these shortages continues to be an open question. A perhaps illustrative success story that could help point a path forward in this regard comes from a company called Urgent Response Network. This Dallas-based enterprise began operations back in March, just when all of these issues started to become more serious. The company was founded by four partners: company President JP McDade, Chairman Brent Skoda, CCO Bobby Skoda and COO Nick Valenta. According to an interview given last week to the Dallas Business Journal, the idea for the company came as stay-at-home measures were being implemented all over northern Texas. The future partners found themselves having dinner together and discussing opportunities that might come from this emerging crisis. In the midst of their discussion, they realized that between the four of them and their other businesses they had PPE manufacturing contacts in China, Taiwan and South Korea. They also had a rolodex filled with financing possibilities and access to hospitals. This led to the development of their main line of business: creating a distribution network that facilitates PPE manufacturing overseas for hospitals and medical personnel in the Americas.  

Their simple, almost startup-like initiative amassed an enormous success and grew exponentially. The company now has over 200 people working in the US and 50 in China, most of them through contractors according to Valenta. He admits that they are still struggling to keep up with demand; by his estimations, the current ratio between demand and supply of PPE is around 500 to 1. However, they have managed to get their delivery times of large orders down to a remarkable seven days.  

The state governments of Texas and Oklahoma are currently some of their biggest clients, but their expansion has been enabled through strategic partnerships. Some of these partnerships are obvious, such as the one they enjoy with Amazon. PR Newswire reports that this week, Urgent Response Network partnered with Mexican company Ecoshell to develop their new international offshoot, Urgent Response Network Mexico. This partnership would take advantage of Ecoshell’s manufacturing capabilities, which they employ in the supply of environmentally friendly biodegradable items such as cups, straws and plates for major Mexican retail brands, such as Bimbo, Corona, Walmart, Starbucks, Soriana and HEB. This will increase Urgent Response Network’s manufacturing capabilities and make its supply lines much more efficient, allowing it to expand in the Americas and mitigate PPE shortages by taking advantage of synergies between the US and Mexico. This deal turned out to be facilitated by the recently signed USMCA, not to mention that it also gives Urgent Response Network access to Ecoshell’s eShipping network. 

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Dallas Business Journal, PR Newswire
Photo by:   CNN, Shutterstock
Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Senior Journalist & Industry Analyst