Learnings from Navigating the ‘Wild West’ of PPE Sourcing

Michelle Jones, Procurement Director at Novo-K

Covid-19 has been a tumultuous time for all, and certainly for those attempting to source PPE. Since early April I have been working as Procurement Director with Novo-K Procurement Solutions, leading on several tactical projects including the Charity PPE Group. Supporting 40 national charities and leading a team of volunteers, we navigated the “wild west” of PPE utilising our procurement expertise, collaborative buying power and honed negotiation skills to secure the five ‘Rights of Procurement’; ‘Price’, ‘Quantity’, ‘Quality’, ‘Place’ and ‘Time’. An article about the Charity PPE Group project was published on the CIPS website.

Should you need to embark on the PPE journey, you may want to consider the following steps;


Step 1: Requirements

What do you actually need? So many organisations have bought items which lay redundant in broom cupboards or take up unnecessary space. Some may also have expiry dates. It is important to check the current government guidelines and rules because these are evolving and changing; there will be different requirements for different environments. Check out this website for up to date advice.


Step 2: Specification

Once you have identified what items of PPE need you should then check the level of specification. Many individuals and businesses do not need medical grade PPE, and it is also worthwhile remembering you will be spending more if purchasing higher spec’ed products. You should avoid buying medical grade where possible as it creates shortages for those who need it most including front-line workers. The British Standards Institute (BSI) provides free of charge information on the recognised and approved certifications on their website.


Step 3: Sourcing

We are unfortunately starting to see the impact of disposable PPE on the environment, so where you can, opt for sustainable alternatives.

Novo-K champions sourcing using the ‘triple bottom-line’ concept; ‘Profit’, ‘People’ and ‘Planet’, and we know there is a big movement amongst other businesses to do the same.

To support this goal, you may want to consider social enterprises. Before and throughout the pandemic we are seeing this industry thrive as consumers and businesses become more focused on Corporate Social Responsibility. Mostly based in the UK, they are creating high quality products that are suitable for non-medical environments. We have recently ordered from The Sewing Rooms who have created the Mask Community. They produce stylish looking reusable masks with Anti-Microbial technology. This is very popular as it comes with a certification of effectiveness against the Coronavirus strain. You can even brand the masks with company logos.


Step 4: Due Diligence

At Novo-K we see a lot of unscrupulous Suppliers who are trying to sell non-existent or substandard products that inevitably fall through at the eleventh hour, leaving companies with no stock, and often out of pocket.

We have all seen the news articles about companies, including the NHS, who have fallen victim to fraudsters!

It is important to use reputable sources and to vet your supply chain. Ask for copies of certification (and check it is real!), benchmark prices and verify your Suppliers and their supply chain as far along as you can, ideally to factory level. Do not part with any money unless you are confident you are using a reputable company.


Novo-K Procurement Solutions can provide support to mid-sized businesses and non-profit organisations with their PPE sourcing requirements. We place a high emphasis on using British social enterprises and sustainable sources where possible, and donate to Plastic Oceans UK for every box of gloves purchased through us. If you would like our help with your sourcing needs don’t hesitate to contact us at sourcing@novo-k.com or our Sourcing page.

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