Keeping customers supplied with PPE during COVID-19

In a crisis, organisations show their value – very clearly, very quickly. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ISS’s Supply Chain & Procurement team helped many customers remain open for business by providing the essential equipment they needed to operate safely.

Disinfection Services
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, relevant PPE (personal protective equipment), hand sanitiser and detergents were very quickly in short supply. From cleaning disinfectant to masks and gloves, demand was huge. Suppliers were running out of stock and many companies were struggling to get hold of enough basic equipment to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.  

At this point, ISS’s strategic supplier strategy and fully integrated global supply chain made the difference. 

Going the extra mile  

“When the crisis started, there were certain items that everyone wanted,” explains Emmanuel Buyse, Head of Group Supply Chain & Procurement at ISS. “When it came to relevant PPE and other essential supplies, manufacturers rightfully prioritised essential services, such as healthcare and elderly care. After that it came down to relationships, and we were one of the next buyers on the list.”  

ISS is one of the world’s largest buying organisations for products such as hand sanitisers and detergents. Over the past few years, we have shifted from a multi-supplier policy to a strategic supplier strategy, actively consolidating volumes. Today, this means we work very closely with a number of trusted suppliers, which ensures we have access to a constant supply of high-quality products made by companies that share our high ethical standards and follow our corporate responsibility guidelines.  

“In normal times, it’s about consistency and transparency,” says Emmanuel. “It’s about working together to create an ethical supply chain that’s beneficial for the supplier, for us and for our customers. During a crisis, as we have just seen, such close partnerships mean that suppliers will go the extra mile to supply what we need.”  

As the crisis progressed, we were in contact with suppliers daily – sometimes hourly – explaining our requirements and forecasting, so they could plan production and distribution. This helped reduce uncertainty and shortages for customers and stopped prices from spiking.  

We also talked to customers regularly. In fact, many customers began calling directly to ask if we could help procure items – just as readily as they might contact their own procurement and supply chain department. 

“We never had an out-of-stock or left a customer hanging, and we never sent someone to work without the correct PPE. Given the circumstances we were in, that is amazing.”

Emmanuel Buyse, Head of ISS Group Supply Chain & Procurement

Global teamwork reduces local shortages 

The supplier relationship is only half the story. When demand for PPE, sanitisers and detergents was at its peak, our global procurement and supply chain team – one of the most flexible and integrated in the world – came into its own. 

Due to the nature of the pandemic, our teams in Asia were ahead of the curve and could warn our other teams what to expect. Very early on, our country teams stepped up dialogue with local sites to understand their volumes and requirements. We began scouring for secondary and tertiary suppliers. Demand that couldn’t be met locally was escalated to our regional or global teams – who met every day at the peak of the crisis – enabling us to mitigate local shortage through global supply.  

As soon as we had excess items in one country, they were diverted to another. Our team in Singapore supplied masks to Switzerland. Our team in Austria sent supplies to Spain. And there are many examples like these. 

“We never had an out-of-stock or left a customer hanging, and we never sent someone to work without the correct PPE,” says Emmanuel. “Given the circumstances we were in, that is amazing.”

Solutions no-one else can see 

The combination of close supplier relationships and global thinking had another key benefit: it allowed us to see opportunities others didn’t.  

We procure a huge variety of products, from food and beverages to vans and cleaning chemicals, utensils and machinery. Our procurement staff contacted strategic suppliers with new requests: A juice manufacturer in Denmark, for example, began producing hand sanitiser.  

As the crisis began to fade in some countries, we also realised that companies would need a new way of working. So, the ISS Group worked with a key supplier to develop a new product, called PURE SPACE, which helps companies create the hygiene routines required to return to work in a socially distanced world. 

People and business do better in a Pure Space

With Pure Space you not only achieve a new, higher standard of hygiene, you also get the data you need to maintain cleanliness,  troubleshoot risk of contamination and influence the right behaviour.

Learn more/services/services-we-offer/cleaning/pure-space
Ready for whatever comes next 

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. But, according to Emmanuel, our global Procurement & Supply Chain team is already looking to the future. 

“As is the case for most companies, the pandemic has taught us a lot – not least that in times of crisis, good partnerships make all the difference. Our goal is to work with our strategic suppliers to build an even more resilient supply chain. We will also continue to invest in strengthening our community of global supply chain employees. This combination of local in-depth knowledge and global supply is essential to meet the needs of customers around the world – whatever the world might throw at us.”   

Stay up to date

Sign up to receive the latest insights from ISS. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Stories about people, places and planet