The strength of a strong supply chain team during COVID-19 

During a pandemic, our teams are essential to the safe and hygienic running of hospitals, care homes, airports, production plants, offices and other facilities across the world. This work is driven by dedicated people on the ground like Procurement Manager Ana Guim, supported by ISS’s global network, which ensures we have consistent procedures in place and quickly share best practices.

Procuring PPE during COVID-19

We had a joint responsibility to our colleagues and customers, and we had to deliver.

Ana Guim, ISS Procurement Manager 

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, our Supply Chain & Procurement team was facing a unique challenge: How to ensure that ISS staff across China – the first country hit by COVID-19 – had the correct personal protection equipment (PPE) at a time when PPE was an incredibly scarce commodity. And it wasn’t just PPE. Demand soon outstripped supply for hand sanitizer, cleaning disinfectants and other essential supplies.

“There was no time or equipment to spare,” explains Procurement Manager Ana Guim. “It took a massive team effort to keep our staff supplied. When an order came through, whoever was available would head down to the warehouse to get it ready. We worked side-by-side with the supplier, re-packing the shipment to meet the needs of each site. With items being in short supply, we had to send the exact amount of supplies necessary.” 

All in this together

Ana’s team were working 18-hour days. They would be in online meetings until 1 or 2am, assessing needs, talking to suppliers and arranging deliveries to local ISS sites across the country. And they would be back up at 7am, checking progress. 

The situation was made much harder by the fact that China was the first country hit by the pandemic. Our team had experience from the SARS epidemic in 2003, and we quickly implemented the necessary structures and processes to deal with the emergency. But the COVID-19 pandemic was on a scale no-one had experienced before and the situation required a huge amount of ingenuity – like finding alternative chemicals for cleaning or new suppliers for face masks.
“It took a lot of teamwork to get appropriate approvals – we read a lot of manuals and guidelines at night – but we had a joint responsibility to our staff and customers, and we had to deliver,” says Ana. “There was an incredible sense of camaraderie. Not just in our team, but from the rest of the organization and with our partners and customers. We were all in it together, doing all we could to make it work.”

These efforts paid off. Despite the situation, no-one at ISS went to work without the correct PPE and no member of ISS’s staff on mainland China contracted coronavirus – an incredible statistic in the circumstances. 


Disinfection Services


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

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Sharing best practices

The work done by ISS in China had much wider benefits. ISS is a global organization, and our country teams regularly share learnings, experiences and best practice. This was stepped up as soon as it became apparent COVID-19 was spreading across the globe. 

Many of the systems and procedures developed in China were rolled out to other countries as the virus spread, as Vincent Robyn, Asia Pacific Supply Chain & Procurement Director explains.

“All learnings were taken up to regional and group level,” he says. “It made a massive difference. Other countries and regions copied our governance model and approaches, and we were able to reduce much sooner deliveries at risk in other countries as a result. Much credit for this has to go to the people on the ground, like Ana and her team.”

This global approach characterizes how we work at ISS – both during business as usual and in times of crisis. Our high standards are driven by people who care, and our procedures and best practices are shared so we can provide peace of mind for customers around the world. 

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