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The challenges of supply and demand

04 May 2020

Evans Vanodine discusses the challenges facing them across the business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We certainly are living in difficult times right now, both personally and professionally. Everyone is doing their bit to keep themselves, and each other, safe, whilst also trying to maintain livelihoods and become home-schoolers overnight. Washing and sanitising our hands more often has now become ingrained in our daily lives.

Awareness of infection prevention and control has also stepped up a gear and is playing a pivotal role in our collective fight against COVID-19. Not only do we need to keep our incredible hospitals and NHS heroes clean and safe, but also supermarkets, corner shops, warehouses, schools, post offices and delivery vehicles, who are all so vital in these difficult times. Evans Vanodine has been developing and manufacturing cleaners and disinfectants for over 100 years and is extremely proud to be playing its part in helping keep the country protected. However, it is a responsibility that is not without its challenges.

Accessing resources

One significant challenge facing our industry, and many others, right now is the shortage of raw materials within the supply chain. Across the globe, resources are being stretched to the limit and demand has overtaken supply. Obtaining raw materials to make our chemicals, and the packaging to put them in, has become a weekly and sometimes daily task, as the whole market is competing to secure the same components or alternatives.

This issue is not unique to Evans, it is being faced by all manufacturers, but having in-house laboratories has enabled us to adapt quickly. Our R&D department has been able to rapidly qualify alternative raw materials or, where this hasn’t been possible, reformulate products entirely.  Their focus has changed from developing new products for the future, to keeping the business running day to day.

Safe Zone Plus, our virucidal disinfectant, and an essential COVID-19 product, has definitely kept our purchasing department busy, sourcing its much in demand key ingredients, to ensure continuity of product availability. We have also been in the fortunate position of being able to upgrade the efficacy claims on our super concentrate disinfectant, EC4 Sanitiser, from a bactericidal to a virucidal disinfectant, expedited due to the pandemic and now effective against Coronavirus. As is the case with all our products, ensuring these products comply with regulations, and maintain their European EN test standards, is crucial to Evans. This task has been made somewhat easier, and quicker, by having our own, UKAS accredited, microbiology laboratory, which is approved to test the efficacy of disinfectants using European standard test methods, ensuring claims are substantiated.

Like many manufacturers and suppliers in the cleaning industry, we have had to temporarily rationalise our product range, to focus our efforts, and our raw materials, on the infection control products that are needed most. Many of our products are currently only available in 5 L, due to packaging shortages on smaller bottles and triggers/pumps. Handsan, Evans’ 70% alcohol-based hand disinfectant, was never likely to be rationalised, with it being tested and approved against enveloped viruses, which includes COVID-19.

But, in order to meet customer demand, we have had to introduce certain measures, such as limiting supply per customer, reducing our pack size options from four to one, and increasing production, from one batch a fortnight to two batches a day. Many producers of alcohol-based hand sanitisers have been hit hard with huge global price increases on the alcohol ingredient, purely due to COVID-19 supply/demand. Isopropyl alcohol (IPA), the base ingredient in Handsan, increased by a staggering level in the space of weeks, with costs continuing to rise. During this crisis, some companies have adopted Ethanol as the base in hand sanitisers and, as a result, have swapped its utilisation from spirit drinks to sanitisers. Commendable as this is, it has meant raw materials and packaging being diverted away from well-established producers. In some cases, products have been brought to market which do not necessarily meet the requirements to be effective against the COVID-19 virus. Not only should an effective hand sanitiser contain at least 60% alcohol, as advised by the NHS, HSE and WHO, but it should also contain emollients to help protect the skin.

Whilst our livestock protection division may not be an obvious contender under the COVID-19 spotlight right now, it is playing a vital role for us and for the country. Our agricultural disinfectants are keeping farms and farm-workers infection free, so they can continue to provide us with food. Our expertise in dealing with two foot and mouth crises and, more recently, the African Swine Fever outbreak means we are well versed in adapting our manufacturing practices to meet demand. Our technical department have also adapted fogging procedures, for large area high risk decontamination, more commonly used for cleaning animal housing and food processing plants, to meet the needs of cleaning premises contaminated with the COVID-19 virus quickly and safely.

Throughout all of this, our entire workforce has been outstanding, working around the clock to manufacture and despatch orders. Special procedures and disinfection protocols have been put in place, to safeguard staff and respect government guidelines. Working from home, where possible, has been implemented and split shifts have been introduced in the laboratories, which need to remain open. Whilst most staff at Evans Vanodine may not be able to stay home, we are proud to say we can help our customers, and theirs, to stay safe and save lives.