The COVID-19 pandemic proved that global and regional surges in demand can critically impact the supply network, exposing the faults of conventional wisdom regarding supply chain: that it’s most efficient and effective to have a single supplier or source for materials.
When demand is high, it’s best to have access to a large and diverse pool of suppliers and manufacturers. This strategy not only helps with ensuring access to supplies, but also helps get it at the lowest possible cost. With this in mind, here are four tips from SDI for securing PPE for schools.
#1 Keep a strategic reserve
While districts likely had existing supply chains established for maintenance and other products prior to the pandemic, most had to start from scratch to procure PPE.
And, when demand surges can overwhelm even the most healthy inventory of supplies at the site level, securing reliable vendors is all-the-more important. Strategic reserves – inventories of backups typically held by a third-party – help school systems guarantee availability of the items they need, like PPE.
Keeping a strategic reserve provides many benefits, including:
- Guaranteed availability of crucial safety stock inventory items and quantities
- Secured inventory model for essential supplies
- Not subject to government supply constraints
- Compressed and consistent lead time
- Fresh, reliable stock
District leaders should collaborate with department heads to determine necessary supplies, and then identify third-party partners who are able to maintain a consistent inventory.
#2 Identify multiple vendors
Most school systems don’t have or use a procurement technology platform. Instead, they rely on a finite set of suppliers, many of which are small and localized, for janitorial and sanitation products.
When the pandemic hit, district leaders realized they didn’t have PPE suppliers because this is the first time school systems need to procure large quantities of PPE equipment. District leaders were forced to scramble, trying to identify reliable suppliers who could deliver high-demand PPE supplies.
By identifying multiple vendors, school systems can avoid disruptions prompted by surges in supply and demand. This strategy not only helps with ensuring access to supplies, but also helps get it at the lowest possible cost.
#3 Understand (and track) PPE “burn rate”
Demand for PPE is going to continue into the foreseeable future, making it a must-have for school sites.
Before building an inventory, It’s important to consider PPE “burn rate” – or the average amount of PPE that is being consumed – for your district and/or school sites. CDC launched the PPE burn rate calculator to help estimate how many days a PPE supply will last given current inventory levels and PPE burn rate. Use this calculator to avoid having too much (or too little) of any given product.
#4 Find a partner
Procuring PPE for schools from reliable vendors takes time, and effort. It can be valuable for district leaders to find an external partner who is available to offer support throughout the supply chain process.
At SDI, our goal is to make it affordable and efficient for school systems to procure PPE and other supplies. We assess districts’ need for resources, including quantitative and qualitative research to understand each district’s unique situation and forecast what consumption could look like. SDI’s supply chain technology simplifies the ordering process, ensuring supplies are easy to access.
We’ve spent over 20 years building relationships with supply partners that can serve school systems – relationships that have continued to prove crucial during the pandemic.
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