Farnell supports customers & supply chain in fight against COVID-19

Author : Rob Rospedzihowski | President, Sales | Farnell EMEA

01 June 2020

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a huge impact on the way businesses operate & how they interact with customers. As Rob Rospedzihowski, President, EMEA Sales at electronic components distributor, Farnell tells us, one challenge has been in the way that distributors manage their supply & demand criteria to ensure vital products are delivered as quickly as possible to the people who need them most.

A version of this article was originally featured in EPDT's H1 2020 Electronics Distribution supplement, included in the June 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

As a global distributor with a strong commitment to its supply chain and customers, Farnell has sought to maintain service levels wherever possible, and has increased support to those seeking to equip and protect those on the front line of the fight against COVID-19. Customers working in the health sector and manufacturers who have refocused their operations to increase production of medical products have been accessing Farnell’s new urgent critical medical order process to expedite the dispatch and delivery of components. This has increased the speed at which shipments for a range of medical equipment, from ventilators to testing kits to front line essentials such as power supplies, get where they need to. In addition, with support from their parent company, Avnet, Farnell has been donating 3D printing equipment and consumables to organisations created to tackle the global shortage of  personal protective equipment (PPE).

Responding to increased demand for medical related components

Demand for components for medical devices has surged, from circuit board components to fans and power supplies for ventilators and respirators. Taking into consideration the number of ventilators required globally, demand for essential components is outstripping the supply that any one distributor has in stock, irrespective of the strength of the stock position before the crisis. 

Farnell has a comprehensive portfolio of the world’s leading suppliers and has been working closely with them to access additional stock to fulfil orders and support customers as they move to produce medical equipment at scale, either for completely new designs or to ramp up existing production.

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Many of the projects that Farnell has supported are well known and are making a real difference to the fight against COVID-19: 

•    In the UK, Farnell is supporting a coalition of businesses, backed by the UK government, to increase the production of ventilators. These customers include existing ventilator manufacturers seeking to increase production to meet increased demand and household brands repurposing their production capabilities to design, prototype and manufacture new ventilators. 

•    In Italy, Farnell has shipped Raspberry Pi mini-computers and products from its Multicomp Pro own brand product range to support one of the country’s largest original equipment manufacturers (OEM) as they  produced the first 1,000 pieces of a new open-source pulmonary mechanical ventilator, which operates using just oxygen (or medical air) and electricity. The device, called the “Milano Ventilatore Meccanico”, was part of an international research project involving more than 20 scientific organisations, including the University of Milan-Bicocca. 

•    In the Netherlands, Farnell is supporting customers who are part of Project Open Air, a global volunteer movement of projects and people working together to provide equipment, supplies and services needed by hospitals, such as ventilators, respiratory masks and home monitors to measure the temperature, heart rate and oxygen in the blood at home to monitor patients at risk.

And in addition to essential components for equipment that could help turn the tide of this crisis, Farnell has also supported customers with products for healthcare and essential businesses, from power cords and power solutions for hospitals, to PPE for paramedics and essential work-from-home kits for businesses in the financial services sector.

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Helping to fill the gap in PPE supplies

As the global shortage of PPE became increasingly apparent, Farnell responded quickly to support volunteer groups who emerged to produce a range of protective materials for frontline workers. Responding to calls from these local heroes, Farnell has now donated more than $50,000 worth of 3D printing equipment and consumables to help produce visors and ear protectors, as well as 3D printed components for respirators and ventilators. The efforts of these groups have been incredible, many kicked off by students or universities, or makers wanting to put their 3D printers to use. 

In the UK, Farnell has donated 3D printers and 3D printing filament to multiple volunteer groups spanning the breadth of the country, from Preston to Teesside and Wolverhampton to London – and of course, Leeds, where Farnell is based. In Leeds, Farnell helped element14 community member, Nick Pearson, equip a pop-up manufacturing plant in his home, and provided filament for the production of more than 5,000 visors. Similarly, Farnell has supported the development of a new manufacturing hub launched specifically to provide PPE to the UK’s first Nightingale field hospital with the donation of 3D Printers and Raspberry Pi.

Efforts have also spread well beyond the UK. Further afield, Farnell has made donations to an organisation in Poland that is providing healthcare workers in Wroclaw hospitals with protective visors, and an organisation in Spain undertaking the rapid development of 3D printed field respirators. In the United States, Farnell has donated printers and filament to De Paul University in Chicago, where Farnell’s Newark business is based, which is working to meet increased demand for PPE in that city.

Looking forward to a better tomorrow, once the pandemic subsides, the donated 3D printers will either remain in the educational establishment to which they have been donated, or they will be re-donated to schools to inspire a new generation of engineers and makers.

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Ensuring staff stay safe

In what are certainly challenging times, with a new definition of business as usual, Farnell has sought to support its customers as it has always done. While most of the Farnell team are working from home, we aim to provide the same support to customers that they did from Farnell’s many global offices.

Teams in Farnell’s European warehouses in Leeds (UK) and Liege (Belgium) have continued to come into work to support our customers. It is with the support of these dedicated teams that Farnell has continued to support orders for electronic components since the lockdowns began. Safety has been a priority, and new ways of working, accommodating essential social distancing, have been developed in partnership with the teams themselves, including marking our floors in 2 metre intervals, and new socially distanced spaces for breaks. The role that these teams have played is incredible. To show our appreciation, all our staff on site are provided with free catering and a weekly grocery box to help reduce the risk of infection from queuing at supermarkets and enable them to spend more time with their families after work.

A thank you to our teams

As we all look towards a better tomorrow, Farnell remains ready to support its customers, existing and new. The response to this global pandemic has been perfectly displayed in pictures of teams across the globe, working virtually together via online video calls. The ability to continue to operate, and support Farnell’s customers, has been assured by the efforts of many individuals – those coming onto site each day to work in our distribution centres, and our sales and product teams at home, working together as one. Our teams have overcome the constraints of different ways of working, while fulfilling thousands of, primarily online, orders every day and keeping customers across the UK and around the world supplied with vital components. We thank them all.


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