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Brakish

Just in Time logistics blamed for delay in getting PPE to UK's NHS

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A recent report in the The Guardian blames a delay in the United Kingdom's National Health Service getting PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for the COVID-19 pandemic on Just in Time (JIT) logistics contracts. Just-in-time is a strategy employed  to "increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they need them for the production process, which reduces inventory costs. This method requires producers to forecast demand accurately". This is in contrast to “just-in-case” inventory management which means holding plenty of surplus inventory or stockpiling in the medical context. 

Quote

Revealed: NHS denied PPE at height of Covid-19 as supplier prioritised China
Disclosures call into question UK’s reliance on ‘just in time’ logistics during pandemic

The NHS was deprived of large amounts of protective gear at the height of the coronavirus outbreak after a French company contracted to supply millions of masks allegedly prioritised more lucrative deals with deep-pocketed clients including a Chinese state-owned energy company.

A joint investigation by the Guardian and the French news website Mediapart has uncovered evidence suggesting the mask manufacturer Valmy failed to fulfil the terms of a £1.2m contract with the NHS to supply about 7m masks in the event of a pandemic.

According to the contract, Valmy was required to respond rapidly to the NHS order and begin deliveries within weeks.

However, documents seen by the Guardian and Mediapart suggest that rather than prioritising the NHS the company increased production for other customers as mask prices soared. A person familiar with Valmy’s negotiations with the NHS said it waited “quite a long time before responding to the NHS’s request because they could sell at far better prices on other markets”.

The disclosures raise questions about the UK government’s reliance on “just in time” logistics to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) in a pandemic situation. The arrangements, common in the manufacturing and retail sectors, were introduced in 2017 to reduce the cost of maintaining a large PPE stockpile.

According to two senior NHS procurement officials, “just in time” PPE contracts encountered significant difficulties in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak. Amid a surge in global demand for PPE, the guarantees to supply the NHS were at the mercy of chaotic international supply chains, ruthless market practices and protectionism.

“All of the comfort blankets we thought we had basically went up in flames,” one of the officials said.

Valmy’s contract with the NHS was dealt a further blow in early March when the French government issued a decree requisitioning stocks of respirator masks. Valmy is understood to be under investigation in France in connection with alleged violations of the decree.

Read more at The Guardian

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Even profit-driven enterprises will use an in-between solution. Example: keep stock of fast-moving items with long expiry dates and just-in-time slower-moving products with a shorter lifespan as is needed or as the order comes in. But for a national health service, to use JIT when they have no local manufacturer and have to order from another country is problematic bordering on incompetence. Especially for a so-called "highly developed" country considering the small amounts of money involved and the fact that these masks have a long shelf life if properly stored. I know the storage will cost money as well but you can expect this from a corporation and not a public health entity. But even a corporation will have more sense than to get themselves in a similar situation which in this case could have cost lives.


Specialist in failure.

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