Northern Michigan University has implemented a centralized ordering and distribution system for personal protective equipment (PPE) to obtain bulk quantities of critical COVID-19-related items at a significant cost reduction.
“We were tasked with securing PPE for the return to campus this fall and sustaining those supplies throughout the year,” said NMU Safety/Fire Marshal Lee Gould. “When local companies' suppliers ran out of stock on some products, we partnered with Fisher Scientific, a national company that prefers working with clients who order in bulk. Instead of each department ordering its own limited quantities at a higher cost when there's a national shortage, we can centralize the order to get a mass quantity at a higher discount.”
Gould said Kimberly-Clark, a partner of Fisher Scientific, sponsors a RightCycle recycling program for single-use nitrile gloves.
“We're putting blue RightCycle bins across campus where people can place their gloves after use,” Gould said. “The Safety Department will collect them and ship them to West Virginia, where they will be recycled for making outdoor furniture instead of going to the landfill.”
Gould said he was surprised to learn that NMU departments, ranging from athletics to biology, typically use 175,000 gloves annually. In response to Covid-19, NMU increased its order to 250,000 gloves for the coming academic year.
NMU has also obtained 250 touchless, NMU-branded hand-sanitizing stations for common areas, vestibules and elevators. More are on order. Other PPE being purchased in bulk include wipes, gowns, face shields and N95 respirators. To give an idea of the cost savings, Gould said N95s were pricing at $14 each, but NMU's bulk discount through Fisher Scientific brought it down to $2 each.
University departments can order supplies online through a centralized system developed by NMU IT personnel. Occupational and Environmental Health Specialist Kim Hegmegee, along with about a half-dozen NMU students, assist Gould in tracking supplies in a warehouse in the Services Building and distributing them to departments.