Supply Chain Update - Aug. 8, 2022

Supply Chain Update - Aug. 8, 2022

Executive Summary

  • Parafilm - Impacted by refineries closing during the pandemic and a worldwide shortage of paraffins.

  • Sterile Latex Gloves - Still on allocation, but the situation is gradually improving.

  • Glass vials - Glass tubing used for vaccine vial manufacturing causes global shortage.

  • Syringes - BD is focusing on medical but other brands are available so be flexible.

  • Microplates & Petri Dishes - Corning is still on backorder, but shows some signs of relief.

 

Parafilm

If you were trying to name an item that is found in every type of laboratory, no matter what their specialty, the list of items you could come up with would be very short.  Gloves?  Check.  Transfer pipets?  Most likely.  Parafilm?  Maybe not in EVERY lab but it would be high on the list.

 

Invented in 1936 trademarked and made by the Bemis Company headquartered in Neenah, WI, it contains no plasticizers and consists primarily of polyolefins and paraffin waxes.  Therein lies the problem.  Paraffin is made by refineries which were shut down during the pandemic and many have yet to come online creating a global shortage and causing prices to spike by over 50%.

 

Bemis has backordered their suppliers since 2020 and are only now forecast to start filling some of these backorders before the end of 2022.  The price of Parafilm has gone up dramatically if you can find it at all.

 

Sterile Latex Gloves

 

Commonly called “surgical gloves” these items continue to be on allocation but the situation is improving somewhat.  Factories in Indonesia, Malaysia and China are once again producing gloves but not at anything close to full capacity.  The demand for gamma sterilizers is huge causing further delays in getting products onto shelves.

This problem won’t resolve itself fully until 2023 at the earliest.

 

 

Glass Vials 

Anything that is forged from glass tubing is in short supply.  Why?  Because glass tubing is used to make vaccine vials and the demand for vaccine vials a) is huge and b) get’s first dibs.  Scaling up to meet the demand is capital intensive and with the demand for vaccine vials undoubtedly going to taper off, few companies are willing to make the investment.

Chromatography vials, VOA vials and many other smaller glass products have been impacted by this shortage.  The shortage is easing but very slowly and, as with anything that has a short supply and a high demand, prices are escalating.

 

Syringes

It’s obvious that billions of syringes are required to administer all of the doses of Covid (and now Monkeypox) vaccines which would likely cause a shortage.  And that has happened with the most widely known U.S. manufacturer focusing on vaccine syringes and choosing not to manufacture some of the more popular non-sterile, no-needle syringes used in the analytical lab.  However the worldwide demand for disposable syringes is a staggering $13.5B (2021 data by grandviewresearch.com.)

There are a lot of manufacturers:  MEDTRONIC (Covidien); Nipro Corporation; Fresenius Kabi; Baxter, BD; B. Braun,  Melsungen AG,; Terumo Corporation,; Novo Nordisk; UltiMed, Inc.; Henke-Sass; Wolf; Retractable Technologies just to name the key players.

The message here is not to get stuck on the BD brand.  If you want syringes, you may have to look to other manufacturers.   

 

Microplates & Petri Dishes

In 1887, Julius Petri invented a simple pair of nesting glass dishes, ideal for keeping specimens of growing bacteria sterile - the ‘Petri dish.”  Since those early days, these dishes have become disposable, now made primarily of polystyrene plastic, multi-well, from 6 - 1536 wells and gone from round to rectangular.  They are a staple in the life science lab today and with anyone doing microbiological testing. 

The Covid-19 pandemic coincided with a plastic shortage due to the Texas power outage during a c

 

old snap which ended up with a) no plastic resin to mold and b) nobody to do the molding because of Covid restrictions.  The demand for these products was through the roof and one of the biggest suppliers - Corning Life Sciences - just dried up almost overnight. Corning had forecast that “the latter part of 2021” they would catch up, but clearly that was wishful thinking.

Corning controls much of the market for these products.  Their problems shifted much of the load to other suppliers like Greiner BioOne and a number of Chinese suppliers and some German firms.  The result was, and still is, a critical shortage in the market which continues today.

We see signs of things starting to turn around, but things are a long way from “normal.”  Many research projects are so closely linked to a specific dish with a specific coating that may only be available from one supplier, most likely Corning.  This is the worst case scenario.  Flexibility is the key.  Qualify multiple suppliers and never rely on proprietary products produced by a single supplier!

 

Summary

At LPS, our job is to find the products you need when you need them.  The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting supply chain snafu’s have put us to the test many times.  But we have almost always come through for our clients!  We have learned a lot from this experience.  We are better prepared today than we were in March of 2020 and our pledge is to never stop working to get you the products you need, when you need them at the very best value.

 

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