March 2020 saw some crazy times around the world in relation to everyday items that we had all previously taken for granted. Whilst the shortage of toilet paper and tinned tomatoes was inconvenient, it was short lived and relatively easily for suppliers to ramp up production to meet demand.
Unfortunately for essential products like hand sanitiser, there is a lot more involved. As hygiene product manufacturers struggled to supply hospitals, aged-care facilities, schools and the hospitality industry with hand sanitiser, the federal government called on manufacturers to consider a shift to prioritise medical supplies such as hand sanitisers.
But established manufacturers have had difficulty in obtaining bottles, caps, labels, alcohol, gelling agents and other raw ingredients, limiting their ability to scale up to meet the demand. About three-quarters of our manufacturers reported shortages of ethanol, bottle pumps and sprays, and more than half were having trouble sourcing bottles, pouches and gelling agents.
Whilst most have the capacity and machinery to increase the standard weekly production numbers, raw ingredients and packaging are not available.
Although ethanol is the main ingredient in hand sanitiser, most contain over 10 products with all been an essential part. Being a hospital grade product, you just need one to be missing to delay production. It is imperative that all sanitisers work effectively and comply with the 144 separate pieces of legislation that apply to the industry.
Pressure on the supply chain has also been caused by a combination of factory shutdowns overseas and the massive global demand. Throw in restrictions on transporting large amounts of ethanol and isopropanol, delays with air freight and sea cargo and you can see how vulnerable the supply chain is.
This is a global crisis that we are all trying to get through and learn from. We hate letting our customers down and have been working hard with our suppliers to find solutions. We have already seen great initiative to improve supply and become less reliant on overseas factors.
The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has set up a hand sanitiser taskforce that has been linking businesses such as manufacturers and bottle producers and considering alternative ingredients that could be used in production.
We are also working with Australian manufacturers to increase the production of hand sanitiser – including existing producers and new companies entering the market.
We are proud of our suppliers that have shown incredible good will and resourcefulness to significantly ramp up their production of hand sanitiser.
We are also grateful to our clients that have shown patience and understanding with shortages and challenges. We know this product is a priority! We are starting to see the light at the end of tunnel and look forward to seeing more supplies available in the near future with stocks returning to an appropriate level.