Making a material difference
A PPE shortage in Russia has been alleviated with the production of more than 400,000 PPE garments (and counting), thanks to close collaboration between DuPont Personal Protection and its country partner InTrade LLC.
At the outset of the Covid crisis, the EU placed export restrictions on PPE to non-EU countries which ran from mid-March till the end of May 2020. While the export restrictions were intended to safeguard supplies for member countries, it had the unfortunate effect that other countries suddenly found themselves with limited – and sometimes inadequate – options for protecting their frontline workers from the virus. It also raised serious challenges for leading PPE manufacturing companies such as DuPont whose products are relied upon around the world.
“DuPont was under a lot of pressure to increase capacity for finished PPE garments,” recalls Evgeniy Yaroslavtsev, Sales Leader Easter Europe for DuPont Personal Protection. “We ramped up production by an additional nine million items per month, but this was not sufficient to meet global demand. So, we also developed a number of options to help our partners respond to increased demand by manufacturing PPE locally.”
One of DuPont’s initiatives is the #TyvekTogether program, which offers to supply Tyvek® 1222A raw material for customers to manufacture PPE themselves (see boxout). This provided a lifeline for longstanding partner InTrade LLC and its customers: the doctors and nurses in Russian hospitals.
At the time COVID-19 struck, InTrade had been a DuPont customer for more than 10 years – but their expertise lay in medical packaging, rather than personal protection. Owner and CEO Stepan Evdokimov explains:
“We started out supplying Tyvek® roll goods to the medical, graphics and textile segments. Later we introduced finished goods, such as protective covers for paint robots in the automotive industry. We also supplied some Tyvek® IsoClean® and other Tyvek® and Tychem® coveralls for medical customers, but this was not a large part of our business.”
The pandemic changed everything. Because of their links with the medical sector, InTrade soon began to get requests from hospitals desperate to source additional PPE to protect their staff.
“Urgent requests from customers were pouring in,” says Stepan. “Demand from the St. Petersburg region alone was around one million garments: for Moscow it was two million. You can imagine how that scaled up for the rest of the country.”
With demand far exceeding InTrade’s existing stock of PPE, the company turned to DuPont Personal Protection for assistance.
The EU export restrictions meant that DuPont was not able to supply finished PPE garments from its European locations so the company put appropriate arrangements in place to supply InTrade directly through its US manufacturing base, where Tyvek® 1222A is made.
DuPont supplied InTrade with material to make their own PPE locally in order to protect Russian doctors and nurses working on the front line.
For InTrade, a commitment to manufacturing PPE represented a significant investment. The logistics for the first shipment required three months to carry the goods from the US to Russia. However, Stepan and his team remained positive:
“Someone who is afraid of the difficulties will never achieve anything,” says Stepan. “Thanks to the DuPont #TyvekTogether program we knew that we could source the material we needed to provide the protection our frontline workers required. We also had more than a decade’s expertise in working with Tyvek®, albeit in other applications, which gave us the confidence to undertake coverall manufacturing.”
InTrade also had to overcome other supply chain obstacles. Stepan explains: “It was difficult to source threads, zip closures, elastic webbing, polyethylene bags for packaging – even cardboard boxes. So, we had to establish new business connections and source goods directly from China and elsewhere. We also had to educate our customers quickly to help them spot low quality or even counterfeit PPE which was beginning to appear.”
An important part of this was obtaining the appropriate PPE certification and the relevant government permissions to supply PPE to for medical applications.
Together we are strong
Despite the initial challenges, InTrade is now successfully manufacturing PPE garments in quantity for its Russian healthcare customers. In addition to its own production capability of 100,000 garments per month, it has partnered with trusted local contractors in St Petersburg and elsewhere in Russia to increase production to 400,000 coveralls per month. It has already placed another large order for Tyvek® 1222A material.
Investment pays off: InTrade is now successfully manufacturing PPE garments in quantity for its Russian healthcare customers.
“The COVID challenge has strengthened our relationships with our local supply chain and with DuPont, because we can contract with their business in the US as well as in Europe,” says Stepan. “We have proved that we are agile and brave enough as a company to respond to rapidly changing circumstances and emerge stronger than before."
“In addition, our team is extremely motivated by the fact that they are contributing positively to saving lives. We even receive letters of appreciation from doctors saying that Tyvek® coveralls are providing the performance and protection they need, which gives us great satisfaction.”
DuPont is also taking away positive lessons. “Tough times force us to act and challenge ourselves,” says Evgeniy Yaroslavtsev. “COVID-19 was a huge stress test on our production, supply chain, distributors and end users. Working with InTrade we were able to respond rapidly to increased demand for garments and help healthcare workers throughout Russia to feel safe and comfortable while saving the lives of patients.”
InTrade will continue to manufacture PPE for the medical sector, long after the pandemic is over. The company is also exploring more new business growth areas, including other Tyvek® applications for cleanrooms and unique PPE solutions for the nuclear segment.