4 min read.Updated: 28 Oct 2021, 01:36 AM ISTRahul Jacob
A trade deal with Taiwan could assure India a better chance of grabbing new opportunities
The lessons from US attempts last year to quickly create manufacturing capacity for N-95 masks and hospital gowns at the height of the pandemic are akin to a fable. It may not have quite the appeal of, say, the story of the hare and the tortoise, but in microcosm this tale offers all we need to know about the complexity of building supply chains in the 21st century. A Harvard Business Review article this summer outlined how it had taken several months for a Massachusetts-based company, Shawmuts, to put up production capacity for N-95 masks because everything, from the polypropylene fabric used to the industrial machines needed to make the fabric and assemble a mask with nose clamps, etc, had to be imported from Germany and China. In the case of hospital gowns, however, much of the expertise was in the US. The ‘coalition’ eventually included companies seemingly as different as a high-fashion firm in New York, a maker of climbing suits in Oregon and even a mattress company, as a race ensued to speed up sewing capacity. “Shawmut’s gown operation went from a standing start to an output rate of 350,000 gowns per month in just over 90 days. Shawmut and its coalition partners supported the production of 11 million urgently needed isolation gowns," noted the article. Despite initial orders from America’s national defence logistics agency, Shawmut’s production of gowns stopped this February when orders dried up as other producers overseas caught up and demand abated. Shawmut had to lay off some of its workforce.