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The Dangers Of Offshoring PPE Manufacturing

Patriot Medical Devices
04/20/2021

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across all regions and countries alike over the last 14 months. This rapid spread has led to a detrimental impact on communities and daily lives of people both in the United States and across the world. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic initially started as a major health crisis, it is has evolved into a serious threat to the economy, finance, and trade.

China’s PPE Supply Chain and Broader Issues

Because demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) increased so rapidly, the healthcare industry saw a sharp rise in prices of everyday use items. This caused many to fall into a panic, buying and hoarding items as they became available. Supply chains were put to the test with livelihoods at risk and several companies were called upon to rise to the occasion and meet the demand for PPE in America.

Even the World Health Organization put out a statement at the beginning of the pandemic calling on industry and governments to increase manufacturing by 40%[i] to meet the rising global demand for PPE. Governments were also called upon to act quickly on easing export and import restrictions and putting measures in place to stop speculation, price gouging, and hoarding[ii].

Now as life slowly returns to normal, businesses are opening back up and companies are bringing employees back into the offices – a bigger danger lurks. American companies that stepped up to meet American demand for safety equipment are now faced with the reality that supply chains are returning to offshore purchasing.

China’s government as a global manufacturer ensured that supply chains returned to its country by supplementing manufacturing costs driving down prices to mere fractional levels leaving quality and ethics unchecked at the border.

The Risks of Foreign Imported PPE

What exactly could be dangerous about offshoring production of PPE? Let us present these thoughts:

1.      Compliance issues

When Covid reached its height of panic, the FDA suspended inspections of all Chinese factories[iii] and as late as November of 2020, government officials were still calling on the FDA to start up inspection of drug factories in China[iv]. Given the sheer number of factories popping up both domestically and from overseas, it is no wonder that the FDA can’t keep up with the demand.

This means that existing factories are not held to any regulation and new factories that were set up are not being inspected. This opens the door to allowing the distribution of unclean or mishandled product into other countries.

In addition, the United States has strict labor and environmental laws in place protecting its workforce and workplace. China and other countries do not have these same laws and, as a result, create toxic work environments and contribute to significant environmental deterioration.

2.      Reliability of delivery

To cross major bodies of water, PPE must travel thousands of miles and often through sub-optimal transportation means. American buyers were frequently disappointed by late arrival of their product or the arrival of unclean and unusable product.  

Covid caused the breakdown of medical supply chains, and American manufacturers stepped up to aid healthcare workers and the general population. Creating a reliable supply chain is key to stabilizing the economy and trade. It is only through ensuring that a nation can endure a pandemic does panic subside.

3.      Bad quality PPE

There is a reason that American manufacturing has such good rapport around the world. Through relentless chasing of regulation, companies are capable of naming their products “medical devices” among various other certifications. American manufacturing standards allows for a higher standard of delivered product when compared to other countries.

Masks have shown up dirty, without any quality filter media, and with elements and chemicals that were not listed properly on packaging. Without the American standards and the FDA backing factory inspections, it is not possible to ensure that products are what they say that they are.

4.      Loss of tax dollars

Economically, offshoring America’s PPE from China’s manufacturers is leading to a major loss of tax dollars. Prior legislation requiring government entities to spend federal financial support on American-made goods has been put on hold. This allows companies to spend that money on the cheapest imported goods. These tax dollars are not being used for the benefit of the country anymore. Instead, these tax dollars are serving the countries that are already dominating the manufacturing industry.

American Manufacturers Must Act Responsibly

The current situation has drawn attention to different ways in which the American economy is becoming reliant on Chinese supply chains. Some reasons are more overt than others, however being dependent on another country at all, especially for medical supplies, is concerning. Authorities and manufacturers in the United States need to work hard to ensure a successful future in American manufacturing alongside the need of American businesses and individual to support American-made!

 

[i] https://www.who.int/news/item/03-03-2020-shortage-of-personal-protective-equipment-endangering-health-workers-worldwide
[ii] https://www.who.int/news/item/03-03-2020-shortage-of-personal-protective-equipment-endangering-health-workers-worldwide
[iii] https://medtech.pharmaintelligence.informa.com/MT126258/Coronavirus-All-FDA-Inspections-Of-Chinese-Manufacturing-Facilities-Come-To-Screeching-Halt
[iv] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/10/warren-wants-answers-on-suspension-of-fda-inspections-of-overseas-drug-facilities.html