Sergiy Tsimidanov led Softmed Australia during the global pandemic to become a major manufacturer of personal protection equipment, including onshoring latex surgical glove production. Here he explains the reasons why the company invested more than $30 million to build a new factory and reinvented the PPE industry.
Among the lessons of the past year is the importance of countries being self-sufficient when it comes to looking after the health and well-being of their citizens.
Consider the parochial response of some European countries to hoarding the Coronavirus vaccine – the flow-on effect of that decision is still to be felt.
Key to any strategy of self-reliance is access to top quality PPE – critical products that underpin the health and safety of frontline healthcare workers, as well as those requiring health services.
Disruptions in international supply last year of not only essential healthcare items such as surgical masks, respirators, surgical gowns and examination gloves, but also the base ingredients required for their manufacture, highlighted the vulnerability of a global market approach.
For Softmed, an Australian company with history and experience in sourcing, distribution and logistics of medical related supplies, it made sense to explore the opportunity to establish Australia’s first truly medical grade manufacturer of both PPE products, but also melt-blown – the base material of most PPE.
Our research conducted at the beginning of the pandemic quickly revealed a few home truths:
- Most PPE supplied to the Australian public during the pandemic was of a basic quality, and a temporary solution to a crisis situation.
- Medical grade production requires a totally different standard of manufacturing – from the material grade to the cleanliness of the facilities
- And the new high health and safety standards implemented during the pandemic would not be relaxed once the threat of the virus has diminished, which means there will be an ongoing need for large quantities of high quality PPE products.
The regulatory environment is onerous, and the existing standards are high, but we understood from the outset that success involved exceeding all expectations and setting new standards.
In other words – reinventing a sector that no longer exists in Australia.
Our decision to become a manufacturer at this level was not made lightly – but we knew we needed to move fast if we were to achieve the goal of Softmed becoming the largest manufacturer of medical grade PPE in the region, as well as the only producer of some products such as examination gloves which are not manufactured in Australia.
Once we understood the requirements, Softmed made a conscious decision to exceed the existing standards where possible, in order to make our products as attractive as possible to local and global markets.
Further, with pressure from all quarters, we knew our manufacturing facilities had to be eco-safe, and to that end we are investing in an off-grid power supply system which will result in both lower production costs as well as safer manufacturing.
We have also invested in additional automated systems to increase our production capacity, resulting in a lower cost of entry.
Revitalising manufacturing in Australia means resetting the industry. We are part of a new generation of manufacturers showcasing new off-grid power technologies, new automated technologies, and new quality standards. Softmed also reinvests 5% of all profits into research of new materials and new technologies.
The lessons of complacency have been learned, and we know that constant improvement is a requirement if we are to establish ourselves – and then retain the mantle of global industry leaders.
With more than 15 years experience in manufacturing, import/export, distribution and logistics, General Manager of Softmed Australia Sergiy Tsimidanov was responsible for overseeing the building, fitout and operation of a new Softmed factory in Victoria over 4 months during the pandemic. He has deep industry expertise and strong connections.
Picture: Sergiy Tsimidanov
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