We’re not writing this to scare you.

Or to push you into a buying frenzy like we saw with yeast and toilet paper.

We’re writing this to explain why your purchasing team needs to start buying PPE from a perspective of risk management.

What this means for purchasing teams:

Disposable N95 respirators and nitrile glove prices are going up beyond market expectations.

We’ll go into detail below about what to expect with the cost of N95 respirators and nitrile gloves. But first, let’s talk about what this means for your purchasing team.

Your purchasing team needs to start planning your medium and long-term needs.

They cannot look at your needs for the next month.

At minimum look at what you’ll need in six to twelve months from now.

We can place orders with suppliers today so PPE will be there when you need it three, six or nine months from now. To place an order, follow the instructions on our Emergency Supply Sourcing page.

The 411 on nitrile gloves:

There has been a 45% increase in global demand for nitrile disposable gloves since the start of COVID-19.

To put that into hard numbers, there is a short of 214 billion disposable gloves.

That’s 214,000,000,000.

Demand has exploded while the supply is only growing incrementally.

This is caused by two factors:

  • Factor 1: The availability of raw materials.
  • Factor 2: The product capacity of glove manufacturers.

The factories that supply the raw material are adding new capacity based on the previous year’s demand, which is before COVID-19 became a pandemic.

Building new factories to handle the current demand of nitrile rubber would take upwards of 18 months to be operational.

Between the production increase from material suppliers and glove manufacturers, the industry can only add 25% in new glove production capacity by 2022.

Price increases for nitrile gloves:

Your purchasing team should expect to see prices go through the roof. For instance, since April 2020 the price of raw nitrile increased 195%.

Forecasters are expecting to see an additional 50 to 100% increase through the end of 2020.

As for finding a supply of disposable nitrile gloves right now, the traditional options are hard to come by. The traditional suppliers we have all been dealing with have put their distributors and customers on allocation, meaning they will only sell roughly the amount that was bought last year – and much of that product has been prioritized to healthcare.

The good news is we have nitrile disposable gloves ready to order that will arrive in early October.

The 411 on disposable N95 masks:

We wrote about the ‘Wild West’ of PPE procurement earlier this year. Cargo disappeared, higher bidders seized shipments, aircraft returned empty and export rules changed overnight.

As COVID-19 cases picked up around the world, the United States government invoked its authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to claim priority for 3M-made respirators.

They first did this in April under a 45-day order and renewed the order in mid-July. The US still has two other extensions they could impose in 2020.

In August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a new deal with 3M to begin producing N95 masks in the existing 3M plant in Brockville, Ontario.

As part of the deal, both levels of government signed long-term agreements to buy 25 million masks per year over five years. The masks would go to healthcare and other essential workers.

This is the second domestic contract to produce N95 masks in Canada. Quebec-based Medicom signed a 10-year agreement to supply N95 and surgical masks to the federal government in April.

When will N95 masks be available?

The 3M plant in Brockville, which mainly manufactures adhesive tape at the moment, has set a 2021 target to begin producing masks.

In the meantime, healthcare workers can still order 3M-made N95 masks through Levitt-Safety. These are sent as priority orders to 3M in the US and are excluded from the DPA.

Contact us to place an order.

Price increase on respirators:

You will see a noticeable price increase on disposable respirators for at least the next year because of product shortages and worldwide demand.

This is mostly fueled by the inability of the North American suppliers to supply product beyond healthcare.

The gap is being filled by alternate imported products and those manufacturers are charging a far higher than normal price due to the supply-demand imbalance.

Disposable respirator alternatives:

While healthcare workers should have some access to N95 respirators and face masks, other industries may notice supply disturbances.

We are sourcing alternative N95s and KN95s (another style of tight fitting disposable respirator) for workers in other industries.

We have KN95 respirators in stock and reusable N95 respirators in stock.

Our procurement team has found a reliable supply of N95 masks which we are importing from overseas.

Our first shipment of cup-style N95s and flat-fold style N95s will arrive in October.

We will continue to give you market updates for the price of PPE in the coming months.

You can place orders for nitrile gloves, N95 respirators and other essential PPE by following the instructions on our Emergency Supply Sourcing page.

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Matt Burtney

Content Marketing Specialist

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