COVID-19 knocked the world for a loop – a true black swan event. We’re already seeing the strained global supply chain working to regain balance. Now, companies around the world are setting aside business as usual to help supply the planet with masks, face shields, ventilators and more. Humanity in the supply chain at its finest. Thank you.

We’ve seen a major shift from some big brands who are taking initiative to meet the demand for medical and sanitization supplies. We’ve learned over these past weeks that changes in the manufacturing process for everyday items like apparel and alcohol can result in producing essential items to keep us safe at home, in public, and on the job for the essential workers on the front lines. 

One of the first indicators of public COVID-19 panic-buying was the mass purchase of hand sanitizer (and isopropyl alcohol for DIY hand sanitizer), followed by a surprise run on toilet paper. French luxury giant LVMH was one of the first companies we knew of that halted regular operations to produce hand sanitizer to be distributed to healthcare workers on the front lines. Similarly, Tito’s Vodka, Anheuser Busch and Dogfish Head followed suit and are using their distillery equipment to produce hand sanitizer to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Global cosmetics company The Estée Lauder Companies reopened a factory to join in the effort to produce enough sanitizer to keep the world sanitized during the pandemic.

Hanes started making masks to make up for the deficit and projected making 1.5 million masks per week. Similarly, other companies, partnered with Parkdale Mills America, are expected to produce 5 – 6 million masks weekly. Similarly, we see this shift in production from companies like Nike (now churning out face shields and other protective gear as well) and New Balance, that have taken it upon themselves to also manufacture masks. Apple has also joined in the effort to produce face shields.

General Motors, Tesla, and Ford are assisting in making ventilators to help meet demand. In fact, the FDA announced on March 22 that they will loosen certain barriers in the medical device approval process to make it faster for ventilators to be produced. The American Hospital Association estimates 960,000 Americans could need mechanical help to breathe during the pandemic. In a report from the Imperial College London, it’s estimates that 30% of COVID-19 patients that are hospitalized are likely to require mechanical ventilation.   

Depending on where you live, it’s likely you had to deal with weeks of overcrowded grocery stores, almost always out of the essentials (and occasionally out of some surprising items as well). With the sudden rush of consumers to grocery stores, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen made the decision to open their supply chain to assure people that there is plenty of food and there’s no need to panic.  

“As long as customers just buy what they need and don’t hoard, there will be no problems at all – there’s plenty of food in the supply chain,” said McMullen. This is an especially important message as the shelter-in-place order is extended for at least another month. Over time grocery stores are returning to normal: they have almost everything in stock and far fewer people are panic shopping, but it will still be a while before the impact on the global supply chain stabilizes. 

While people and companies are working to adapt and figure out new daily routines, it’s increasingly important to remember that there is a light at the end of every tunnel. With our combined efforts, we will persevere, and the hope is that we can learn and grow from this experience collectively.