Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How to get PPE to Hospitals

Since the start of the pandemic here in the United States, we have all heard the calls for PPE. Now, PPE is not a term I have ever heard outside of my warehouse employment, particularly Amazon (CMH2, DCM1 AMZL). PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment.


PPE items are running out or are out at hospitals all across the country. In particular masks, but other basic items that you see healthcare professionals wearing during this event. I'm not terribly concerned with the exact type or model numbers of what is needed here, just the logistics of getting it to the people that desperately need it.

The current set up (if you can call it a set up at all) is not working.


Everyone orders online. That's basically it. If it can't be delivered then we get the modern "OMG WE ARE OUT." I see this from a lot of younger nurses and doctors - which then gets picked up by the news. The result is that if it isn't available on Amazon or Walmart then there is a global shortage because that's all most people know now.

The truth of the matter is that online shops are not vetting who gets important materials/items and who doesn't. So, it just disappears quickly when it's posted that there is inventory - it is a free for all. This is a problem because the people that need it most don't have time to park themselves on Amazon.

Before the advent of online shopping, we had to call ahead and load up in a car and drive to find it. That's was a giant pain, yes, but (the positive was) stores could easily control who got things and who did not. We are seeing a version of this already with specific hours for seniors.


The US can use physical stores as mini storage centers.

Work with CVS and Walgreens. Supply their physical stores. The government should direct this activity and work directly with the big box stores to stock the areas in most need. Employees at the physical stores (preferably pharmacists) can work directly with the local network of hospitals in the area.

We don't have time to set up some sort of goddamn ERP inventory system before we get this going. Simple phone calls, barcodes, and spreadsheets worked for generations and they will work here.

CVS and Walgreens get a warehousing %. Amazon Delivery, UPS, FedEx, USPS can deliver to the stores, depending on the origin of the items.

CVS and Walgreens vet the buyer before selling the item, ensuring that it goes to where it is most needed.

Between the two stores, there are almost 20,000 locations in the United States.


Inserting an extra layer of governmental control is not something I particularly like, but it's necessary here to ensure PPE and any other items get to the people that need them most. We have the manufacturing capacity in this country to meet demand, especially on paper products. It just requires a little extra admin.

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