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COVID-19 exposes supply chain weaknesses

August 03, 2020

As we now often hear, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses throughout the supply chain. Along with personal protective equipment (PPE), many facilities are unable to reliably source disinfectant wipes. However, the ability to readily disinfect equipment during a pandemic is a national priority.

So, let’s understand exactly why our supply of disinfectant wipes has been unreliable during the pandemic. Difficulties fall into two categories: sourcing materials and safety regulations.

Challenges with sourcing materials:

  1. New coronavirus-related restrictions on Chinese factories have made it difficult for American wipe companies to source materials such as Quaternary ammonium compounds.
  2. To keep up with high demand, manufacturers have increased their orders of packaging components for not only wipe canisters, but also items such as hand sanitizer pumps, and spray bottles leaving these packaging companies overwhelmed.
  3. Some companies have reported difficulties with sourcing fabric for disinfectant wipes because wipes use the same materials that are used to make personal protective equipment (PPE)- another item in very high demand.
  4. The increase in demand pushes manufacturing companies to expand their production lines in order to quickly supply more product, but it is difficult to source equipment of that scale on such short notice and will likely take many months to be effective.

Challenges with health and safety regulations:

Regulations also limit the adjustments that can be made to speed up the manufacturing process of wipes. Only certain fabrics, like polypropylene, are approved by the EPA for use as a disinfectant wipe. This heavily restricts a company’s ability to find an “alternative” material for the wipes.