How manufacturing is supporting the recent upsurge in hand sanitisers

To say that the global COVID-19 crisis has also comprehensively upended the market for hand sanitiser and similar everyday hygiene products would be quite the understatement.

Even as the pandemic was only just beginning to make itself significantly felt in Western countries in March, some of the numbers documenting demand for this product category were frankly staggering. Market researchers at Adobe Analytics, for instance, observed that there had been a 1,400% spike in demand for hand sanitiser from December to January.

Looking to Europe, which was to be an epicentre for the virus’s spread, a similarly stark situation quickly became clear. The UK hand sanitiser manufacturer McKLords was reported by ITV on 10th March to have received orders of more than two million in the space of “10 days or so”, compared to the five to six million bottles it historically produced per year.

From agile smaller players to enterprising corporations

Organisations of seemingly every shape and size have mobilised resources to answer the pressing need for drastically heightened supplies of hand sanitiser.

As infections and deaths have accelerated around the globe, we’ve seen even businesses more readily associated with the manufacture of alcohol and perfume enter the hand sanitiser market. In some cases, production lines have been voluntarily switched to hand sanitiser production, while other firms have supplied raw materials needed by other companies for manufacture.

The website of Beauty Packaging noted that such key beauty-sector players as L’Oreal and LVMH were getting involved in the hand sanitiser market, and that New York City had even made the decision to produce its own hand sanitiser.

Unilever’s quick action to protect supplies, health and lives 

Meanwhile, the British multinational titan Unilever published an online feature in June outlining its own fast-moving ramp-up of production, stating that since January, it had already expanded from two factories to 61, manufacturing about 100 million items a month – up from 700,000.

In that piece, the consumer goods company’s Vice President of Supply Chain for Skin Cleansing and Skin Care, Ampy Aswin, explained some of the challenges that its hand sanitiser business had overcome.

Aswin said of the firm’s extremely rapid transition: “It helped that we had a very clear purpose: increasing the supply of hand sanitiser to meet an enormous surge in demand. That galvanised everyone into action. And across the wider team, we agreed a framework that gave us freedom to make decisions fast and deploy expertise where needed.”

She also admitted to inevitable compromises, including the decision to not initially greatly worry about bottle shapes or designs, as long as the products met the World Health Organization (WHO)’s standards of a minimum of 60% ethanol content in sanitiser.

Unsung heroes supported the gargantuan effort

It’s easy to overlook amid all of this, that simply bringing together the right expertise, re-jigging production lines and commandeering the necessary raw materials was far from the beginning and end of the process of maximising hand sanitiser production as the coronavirus crisis intensified.

Other key players in making it all possible, for example, included leading packaging equipment manufacturers such as KBW Packaging, which recently noted that its liquid filling machines have proved a huge seller for the purposes of manufacturing hand sanitiser. 

All in all, it is clear that key stakeholders across the hand sanitiser and associated sectors have been highly enterprising and aggressive in upping the supplies of hand sanitiser to the levels necessitated by the scale of the pandemic.

That bringing to bear of considerable knowhow, resources and experience could prove vital to the world’s efforts to neutralise and overcome the threat of COVID-19 as the wait continues for a safe, viable and effective vaccine.