Answers to frequent questions on how Unigloves is reacting to COVID-19. Valid at point of posting on 22/12/2020.
Are we increasing our production supply?
Throughout the year, there has been unprecedented demand for disposable gloves. The disposable glove market has accelerated with market participants, some countries reporting order increases of up to 500% in the first half of the year.
Our parent company, UG Healthcare, are working hard to increase production capacity but constraints on the supply of raw materials are likely to continue to restrict growth and ensure that the prices remain high over the coming months.
The factories have been able to increase aggregate utilisation levels from an average of around 85% in 2019 to around 95% in 2020, to drive annual capacity up from 300 bn gloves per year in 2019 to around 320 bn gloves per year in 2020.
Even with additional capacity, demand currently exceeds available supply.
How have the shortages of nitrile impacted production?
The situation has been further complicated by shortages of nitrile butadiene rubber. To keep production lines running at the highest utilisation levels, producers, including UG Healthcare, are paying 300% more for nitrile raw material in the spot market. The shortage of raw nitrile is expected to continue through the following months and may continue to increase the price for gloves. There is no expected end until 2022.
As the nitrile shortage continues, there has been a knock-on effect on other raw materials, including latex and vinyl, meaning costs currently remain high on all polymers. We are always monitoring this situation and will publish further updates as soon as our position develops.
What we are doing to protect all employees, including our workers in our Malaysian factories?
Substantial measures have been put into effect across the business to ensure that potential risks of COVID-19 infection are decreased to the lowest achievable levels. All those who can, and whose roles allow, have been working at home to ensure that only those whose jobs are essential to production are on-site at any time.
In December 2020, Unigloves began testing our Malaysian workforce for COVID-19 as a precautionary measure to safeguard the health and safety of our employees. The tests are expected to have minimal disruption to production. Please read the Group press statement for more information.
The following are, but not limited to, some further measures we have taken to reduce the risk:
- Unigloves has asked most office-based employees to work remotely. This includes employees based at the company's global headquarters in Malaysia, as well as in locations around the world.
- Where working from home is not possible (e.g., factories, distribution centres), we have provided employees with additional PPE and hand gels to help prevent coronavirus exposure.
- Social distancing protocols have been established in all operating facilities.
- Enhanced cleaning protocols have been introduced at all sites that remain open.
- Manufacturing employees forming bubbles to reduce the potential for spreading COVID-19.
- All employees, contractors and visitors have their body temperature measured and recorded upon arrival. Additionally, everyone is asked if they are well and do not have a cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath.
- Contractors are asked if they have visited any of the high-risk states or countries during the past 14 days. If a yes is given to these questions or if a temperature over 37.3°C is recorded, they are barred from entry to the site but that does not result in lost pay.
- Non-essential visitors are not allowed to enter Unigloves’ production facilities.
- All employees have been trained in optimal hygiene practices, including the importance of keeping hands clean by frequent hand washing and sanitising. Posters to remind employees have been put up throughout all workspaces and sanitiser is available at all points of entry and exit, as well as other common areas.
- Employees must make a declaration if they have visited any high-risk states or countries or been in contact with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Packing station operatives wear PPE (gloves, masks, and aprons) as standard practice, this was the practice even before COVID-19.
What is the best practice for glove donning and doffing?
Please watch our video on the best practice for disposable glove donning (putting on) and doffing (removal) to help safeguard against COVID-19.