As the COVID-19 crisis has evolved and the pandemic has just about taken its toll on almost every sector across the globe, those working in the personal protective equipment (PPE) industry have also felt the immense pressures of the current business and trading climate.
At ASAP Innovations, along with other businesses operating in the personal protective equipment sector, we have been faced with multiple issues for PPE supplies, including worldwide material shortages, factory closures, increased demand, and fraudulent products. These issues have posed and still pose a threat to the supply of personal protective equipment that is essential for healthcare organisations to have access to and remain on top of their game. Without this, those in the healthcare industry will not be able to continue protecting their staff and patients.
While many areas of the PPE sector have faced its challenges, one product in particular has faced its fair share of highs and lows, the medical-grade glove.
Impacts of COVID-19 on the medical glove industry
The medical glove market saw demand rocketing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the nitrile disposable glove market increasing by 45%, which equates to 214 billion additional pairs of medical gloves. As a result of this, countries worldwide fell victim to shortages for two key reasons, the availability of the raw materials and the physical capacity of glove manufacturers.
If these two factors weren’t debilitating enough, further issues accompanied these at the end of 2020, where it was revealed that the world’s number one manufacturer of medical gloves had experienced a control movement restriction order in Malaysia. This resulted in over half (55%) of its factories being shut. Furthermore, the world’s third-biggest supplier of medical gloves was forced to shut a quarter (25%) of its factories due to COVID-19 outbreaks among its staff.
But this hasn’t been the only issue to affect Malaysia. Glove manufacturers across the region had their operations suspended in Klang due to the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) in several districts in Selangor. The EMCO was put in place for 34 districts in Selangor and 14 localities in Kuala Lumpur from July 3 to July 16, 2021. This was then extended for a further two more weeks, meaning the EMCO was in place for almost the entire month of July. According to the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA), the country produces around 60% of the world’s nitrile exam gloves. The restrictions caused mass panic and dread across the sector; however, ASAP Innovations ensured that customers were at the forefront of the issue by informing them of the events that were taking place and putting an inventory management plan into action.
The shortages of PPE gloves at the beginning of the pandemic also caused chaos and led to fraudsters producing fake, unregulated, or inferior quality products. These products posed a considerable risk to healthcare workers across the globe, putting their lives on the line through inadequate protection.
But it wasn’t just the personal protective equipment industry that was facing these battles. There were also continued reports outlining that the Government had spent at least £2bn in taxpayers’ money on personal protective equipment that did not adequately meet the regulatory standards.
Information detailing that around 2.1 billion items of PPE, which includes the use of gloves, had been deemed unfit to keep doctors and nurses safe in clinical settings. The number of unusable products was estimated to be five times higher than the number initially predicted by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in January 2021.
The trials and tribulations for the glove industry also succumbed to the Suez Canal fiasco. On average, 50 ships pass through the Suez Canal daily, so when there was an issue with just one ship, the impact on the global protective equipment industry supply chain was phenomenal. The ongoing issues from this have caused severe delays in delivery and a mass increase in pricing hikes months beyond the initial problem. Most PPE shipments saw delivery time increase by up to three weeks, and pricing also skyrocketed with 40 feet containers increasing in price from $8,000 to $15,500.
Setting industry standards
But it hasn’t just been the international issues that have affected the PPE supply chain this past 18 months. The ‘B’ word that was on everyone’s lips prior to the pandemic has also re-entered the business lexicon. Following Britain and Northern Ireland’s formal exit from the European Union on January 1, 2021, the UK saw the introduction of The Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021. ASAP Innovations were one of the first manufacturers to ensure that their products were certified and ready for post-Brexit distribution.
Ensuring all of ASAP Innovations personal protective equipment products are updating technical files, adhering to the latest regulations, and updating emerging documentation regularly means that customers can trust that their PPE supply is not only safe and credible but fully compliant with the new standards.
As with every industry, it is essential that all legal guidelines are met to ensure the safety and efficacy of healthcare products. Many distributors have been asked about ethical manufacturing of such products due to recent articles appearing in the broadsheets such as The Guardian. As a company that is consistently trying to improve its procedures with SMETA and the Modern Slavery Act 2015, ASAP Innovations encourages all those participating in purchasing PPE to question suppliers about their supply chain and the factories providing disposable gloves.
Asking suppliers about their ethical assurance measures and auditing processes should never be a question that a credible company would shy away from answering, and these steps can help to ensure that the industry is being held to account.
ASAP Innovations’ vast product line
As with all businesses, ASAP Innovations has diversified its already strong glove product line in response to an increased demand for specific and tailored personal protective equipment in the healthcare industry. Ensuring that niche markets are catered for is vital when it comes to compliance and safety standards.
ASAP Innovations is in a strong position with its research and development team to make sure that they can cater to the requirements of a variety of healthcare needs, no matter what the job discipline. The ASAP Innovations team has just recently launched Cleanroom gloves which are for those handling sensitive equipment. These gloves are powder-free and are manufactured under a stringent controlled level of contamination to ensure low particle count when operating in specific environments. Also in the pipeline are Chemotherapy and Chemical Resistance gloves. The Chemotherapy gloves have recently undergone extensive testing for permeability against chemotherapy drugs. The proper protection is crucial when dealing with chemotherapy medication as direct contact with the skin can cause major implications such as potential mutagenic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic effects. ASAP Innovations Chemical Resistance gloves are also currently in testing stages; these gloves will ensure splash resistance against hazardous chemical exposures and will be used in a range of applications such as chemical handling or when working with pharmaceuticals.
By diversifying and offering specialised products across a variety of healthcare industries, ASAP Innovations offers certified PPE in more ways than most suppliers. Protecting and upholding safety standards across these industries is why we set out to develop specialised products for those who need them most.
ASAP Innovations UK is part of a wider team that is also located in Ireland and Malaysia and has over 30 years of experience manufacturing disposable products and has a commitment to hygiene control and quality assurance. ASAP has 150 certified product lines of various gloves and face masks, including Nitrile, Latex, Vinyl and Medical Masks. ASAP’s products are available to UK organisations through the local presence of ASAP Innovations UK.
If you are looking for certified protection for your functional and practical needs, choose ASAP Innovations, where transparency and legitimacy are the priority.