I’ve been close to the sources of supplies during this pandemic over the coronavirus. Many of you who are brokering supplies know this already, but, the average person is asking the big “why”…why aren’t supplies getting to where they need?
I have a few answers here but the first answer to the WHY is (as of this date 4/2/20) THERE ARE SUPPLIES, and I know this to be fact. The WHY to be answered is why aren’t the people in need getting access? Here we go:
- Governments who are procuring needed items weren’t set up for this supply-and-demand environment. Their old-school approach to sourcing, sending a quote over to finance for a purchase order, and then getting that to a vendor, doesn’t work so well in this fast-moving environment riddled with lack-of-trust on the part of the vendor as well as the government. Governments won’t or don’t want to pay any money upfront. Vendors (distributors/manufacturers) are demanding it. The more intense the need, the more creative some governments are having to be in this regard. Business, as usual, this is not. Long decision-making and paperwork processes can bottleneck things and create a scenario where the price is escalated or the supply has diminished before any deal manifests. There’s a HUGE lesson here to be learned.
- Gouging certainly exists. We’re aware of some distributors/manufacturers holding “proof of life” videos hostage for cash. (Proof of Life is evidence that the product actually is in their position with time/date shown). But, not everyone is a gouge-hound. Minimum quantity situations where vendors and manufacturers are requiring significant orders (millions) have pushed independent brokers to purchase quantities themselves and break down the supplies into smaller batches that they can sell. That may put at least one if not two or more middlemen in the string. In that case, the prices will be higher because there are more people and expenses involved. Not-so-much a gouging situation as it is “just business.” And, honestly, as long as the prices aren’t extraordinarily high and the people are legit, they are serving a real purpose. And, the next bullet is why.
- Municipalities weren’t, and I don’t think still are, organized to procure supplies the way the market is now demanding. With minimum orders in the millions, a municipality shouldn’t have individual departments sourcing and purchasing on their own. They aren’t going to meet minimum orders, and they are likely not going to make a good purchasing decision. Smaller counties should coordinate internally and regionally, find a centralized location for delivery, and divide up the supplies once they come in. But, because this isn’t happening enough, and because there are organizations trying to source a few thousand items at a time, there is a need for those brokers who can do smaller orders.
- As the virus rages on, there are countries putting stipulations down about supplies that leave their country. China, just yesterday, announced a regulation requiring documentation on end-user that validates the use for the items. Nothing leaves a warehouse in China before that document is received, reviewed, and filed. Another step in an already challenging process.
- Usual sources for supplies are out. Where does one turn to find supplies — Google? Many people are sourcing in the blind. For whatever quantity they may need, they are clueless about where to look. If they are contacted out of the blue by someone they don’t know, they are frightened to move ahead and not sure how to vet.
- Many who are trying to source are not so educated about what they need. If you aren’t a healthcare facility, but, you’ve been tasked to purchase coronavirus test kits, you might not know that you need the equipment that goes with it to get the results from the test. The popular N95 masks are really supposed to be fitted to your face to work well. Most people don’t know there are sizes. They don’t know what they don’t know. Lack of information can slow processes.
Add all of this up and then add that, for the United States, much of the supplies and equipment are coming from countries several hours apart from us, so waiting is, unfortunately, a part of the process. So, paperwork, lack of trust, lack of preparation, unwillingness to conduct business out of the norm, a faction of unethical sellers, minimum order and payment requirements, and exhausted legitimate vendors, manufacturers, and brokers trying to keep up with it all — and you’ve got a “Perfect Storm.” But, it’s a storm we’ve not dealt with previously and it’s presenting a serious education. The excruciatingly sad shame of it all is who is paying the price.
Before you think I’m leading you down a path of having no faith, let me share that there are people out there problem-solving like mad on this. Here’s one of our own: Dr. Chance Glenn of Morningbird Media and Electronic Alchemy, who has invented 3d printing of functional electronics and holds a contract with NASA is collaborating on 3d printing of ventilators. As of this writing, the project goes to facilities next week for testing and then, hopefully, fast-tracking it through federal hurdles to get it to the needed places. This is a US-based endeavor. Reposting the news release below that came out today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 04/02/2020
COVID-19 Vent, dba Corey Mack Design
Innovators Build Low-Cost Ventilator
Design Assembles in Minutes, Uses 3D-Printed Parts
Rochester, New York: COVID-19 Vent today announced their premiere product, a new low-cost ventilator, to combat the unprecedented novel coronavirus. COVID-19 Vent is a medical device that functions similar to a traditional medical ventilator, a device in grievously high demand, at exceptionally low manufacturing cost, and offers a new way for the medical equipment to be constructed locally near the hospital in need.
A growing number of high-tech organizations and universities are organizing around this project. These include the University of Houston-Victoria, Alabama A&M University, Electronic Alchemy via the Morningbird Media Corporation, Victoria East High School’s Career and Technology Center, and the Euro-Alliance Ltd with operations in Switzerland and India.
“We are honored to support Corey in this critical endeavor. We believe we have an opportunity to truly make a difference here. More importantly, we see people coming together, rallying around a cause, using whatever they can offer to help. This is what it’s all about,” says Chance Glenn, Provost and VP of Academic Affairs at the University of Houston-Victoria and President of Morningbird Media Corporation.
“We just saw the need, built it in Autodesk Fusion 360 in just four days, and the prototype will come in a week,” says Corey Mack, Founder at COVID-19 Vent. “Everything about this device is like fighting this virus. We are 100% full force dedicated to design, adapt, and build these devices. By building the COVID-19 Vent in locales all over the country, we’re buying time to treat as many people as we can with the efficiency of local supply chains right in the same state.”
Features and benefits of COVID-19 Vent include:
Ease of manufacturing, where a single technician can assemble parts, test and deploy in roughly one hour.
Parts are easily sourced, many of which exist in abundance virtually everywhere in the United States.
Features a stainless steel unibody and Arduino controlled system with CPAP, Pressure Control, Pressure Support, and Assisted Control modes.
Safety features include pressure safety valve and programmable alarm.
COVID-19 Vent is building its first ten ventilators in Rochester, NY, with plans to test them in five medical centers the following week. The company is currently in talks for licensing in Switzerland and India, and will seek FDA approval. For more information on COVID-19 Vent, visit www.COVID19vent.com.
About Corey Mack: A North Carolina native, currently living in Los Angeles, Mack, is an RIT Alumnus most known for his work on disaster relief concepts. Mr. Mack is the CEO of LAFORGE Optical a company developing augmented reality eyewear.
About Morningbird Media Corporation: A technology and innovation company that is launching the Electronic Alchemy eForge (www.electronicalchemy.com) The eForge is capable of 3D printing functional electronic devices and is expected to reach customers later in 2020.
Have faith – be safe.