PPE Manufacture Prompts Supply Chain Fears

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact life around the globe new research has highlighted that the supply of vital personal protection equipment (PPE) remains dependent on a small number of major manufacturing nations.

Russell Group and IHS Markit have undertaken analysis on the concentration of PPE manufacturing and discovered at present Germany and China enjoy a dominant position in the market and with it the creation of supply chain risk.

“Production of non-woven fabrics and garments – used to produce vital PPE equipment such as surgical masks, gowns and glovers – is dominated by China and Germany,” said the analysis. “The analysis shows that the top ten exporters of non-woven fabrics have a combined dollar value of $20 billion and comprise 40% of all nations exporting the material.”

China leads the way with $6.9 billion, followed by the European Union with $3.25 billion and Germany with $2.5 billion.

Commenting on the figures, Suki Basi, CEO of Russell Group (pic) said: “In this coronavirus crisis, what we are seeing is that one of the most valuable and in-demand commodities now is non-woven fabrics, given their use in producing most of the items required for PPE for frontline workers. Yet, what is most surprising about these figures, is how euro-centric the production and consumption of the material, with half of the importers and exporters of the material being European.”

Mr Basi added that the concentration did give rise for a risk that should there be an issue with one of the two major manufacturing nations the global supply of PPE would be badly impacted.

“The market for hygiene and medical nonwoven fabrics is dominated by Chinese and German companies,” he explained. “Seventy Five percent of all hygiene and medical nonwoven fabrics worldwide are made by Reicofil (Reifenhauser Reicofil). This is a potential single point of failure for the industry. In China, the market has been dominated by Dawn Polymer, which has 40% of the Chinese market. However, Sinopec – the Chinese-state oil company – has entered the industry and by mid-April were making 18 million masks a day.”

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