bisco industries Blog

Helping to Build Ventilators in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Marcia Williams

On a spring morning in March, Scott Rowden wakes up early and looks through the window. Thoughts about the coronavirus pandemic come into his mind. Scott reflects on how this situation has evolved from a distant virus in Wuhan, China to being spread rapidly in the United States and throughout the world. It seems unstoppable.

How our lives have changed with COVID-19

We are living in unprecedented and challenging times. ABC News shows ten ways in which COVID-19 has already changed our lives. They are as follows:

  1. Greetings – elbow pounds replacing our traditional handshaking
  2. Politics – uncertainty about 2020 presidential elections; no large crowds
  3. Hygiene – hand washing has become critical
  4. Public gatherings – limitations on the number of people
  5. Economy/markets – major hit to the US stock market and high volatility
  6. Travel – bans and restrictions are in place
  7. Stockpiling and price gouging – prices 50% higher for sanitizers
  8. Closed schools and offices – online classes and telework
  9. Clothing/ masks – medical face masks rose 319%, per Nielsen data
  10. Fears and anxiety –staying positive and productive becomes challenging


Scott grabs a quick breakfast. After reading articles and watching the news about the coronavirus pandemic, Scott gets ready to go to work. Yes, he drives to the corporate office located in Anaheim, CA because his company is considered essential amid the novel coronavirus.

The Ventilator Manufacturer Challenge

That Monday, Scott jumps on his work at his desk, as he typically does, without knowing that it would be an unforgettable day for him and his team at bisco industries. bisco industries is a premier distributor of electronic components and fasteners.

A major challenge from a ventilator manufacturer was awaiting Scott. Ventilators are artificial breathing machines that help patients with severe respiratory issues. They are very effective during coronavirus treatment. In these times, demand exceeds the available supply of the so needed ventilators, despite innovative approaches being tested to fight the imbalance. For instance, an article in The Guardian highlights how the Australian government is asking Ford for help in boosting production of ventilators.

Hospitals in Italy have been experiencing alarming issues with ventilator production capacity. This is to the point that doctors have made the tough decision of which lives to save.

“The capacity in northern Italy hospitals is a preview of a movie that is about to play in the United States,” said Marty Makary, a John Hopkins University surgeon and health policy expert, to USA Today. “The best two indicators of what things will be like in the U.S. are the number of COVID-related deaths in Italy and the number of ICU beds.”

This is not far from happening. Patients in the U.S. could be prioritized based on determined criteria for the allocation of ventilators, states an article titled As coronavirus pandemic surges, hospitals prepare for grim possibility of ventilator triage” on ABC News.

Ventilator manufacturers are facing three main issues:

  1. Demand is increasing at an extremely high pace
  2. Availability of raw materials for production
  3. Availability of staff to keep production running


Working against the clock to get the critical component

Precisely, the email that Scott received from the Palm Springs ventilator manufacturer was looking for a solution to the availability of raw materials. Amid this crisis, a function that many times is overlooked by companies’ leadership, has started to shine and getting the attention it deserves. That function is supply chain management.

As its names denotes, it is a chain from the raw materials to the end customer. This process covers purchasing and inventory optimization, operations and manufacturing, as well as warehousing and logistics.

To ensure supply chain continuity, the echelons in the chain need to be well-linked and have the flexibility and agility to respond to the rapidly changing environment. Guess who are orchestrating the chain with their multiple participants and complexities to have a resilient and streamlined supply chain?

Supply chain professionals are the ones behind the scenes. They juggle cost, quality, deliveries, lead-times, quantity, among many other pieces. Their motto is that the show must go on. With that motto, Scott took immediate action to find the requested critical component. He knew he was helping fight COVID-19. This created an immense energy that translated into effort.

An hour later, another e-mail from the same Palm Springs ventilator manufacturer flashes into his inbox. The quantity needed was 10X the original quantity. His knowledge and experience told Scott that the quantity required would probably increase. Scott was able to reserve all available inventory for the manufacturer in less than two days. The end result? A very pleased customer, impressed by the extremely quick response.

This is a clear example of how our communities are reliant on the functions performed by supply chain management professionals. This becomes visible when issues arise in the supply chain; for instance, material shortages and delays, among many others.

 The Rewards

Contributing to supply chain continuity during these times of disruption provides a real purpose and meaning to my job,” Scott said. We are in this together. The thought and action taken by Scott and the team at bisco industries enabled the ventilator manufacturer production line to keep running, thus saving lives. This challenge made a fantastic day at work. Scott couldn’t be happier. How great is the feeling to contribute to fight COVID-19. But, how did they do it?

Scott and his team’s fast turnaround were because of their relationships with their suppliers. Of course, knowledge and experience are key pillars of the foundations as well. Nonetheless, the most relevant aspect in this wonderful true story is bisco’s relationships built and solidified over time with their suppliers. That was the factor that made it happen.

Remember the sad situation that doctors are faced with in Italy as they are forced to choose among patients? And, the possibility of ventilator triage at hospitals in the United States noted by the article on ABC News? Yes, when doctors need to prioritize lives based on certain criteria?

This is the race suppliers are running against – the race Scott and the bisco team are running against. Based on the relationships they have built and their expertise of the supply chain, Scott and the bisco team were able to provide a fast response and deliver the exact products that were needed. This is how they enjoyed and are proud to be helping build more ventilators in the fight against COVID-19.

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