Below are the main reasons for the current backlog experience in the production and distribution of PPE.
A surge in demand for N95 masks has led to a shortage of the key component, nonwoven polypropylene. In China, the shortage of melt-blown fabric is a serious bottleneck in downstream processes for making high-level N95 masks.
There is a bottleneck of melt-blown production lines, and building the production line also takes time. For example, it takes about half a year at least to assemble a single machine production line to melt-blow fabric.
Geographic Concentration of Manufacturers
The high dependence on China as a production hub is also a factor so that worker quarantines led to manufacturer shutdowns. China accounted for half the global supply of masks, with a daily production of about 20 million units before the outbreak.
The global shortage of face masks has also been worsened by export bans of masks and key materials in various economies, including Bangladesh; Canada, Czech Republic; Egypt; France; Germany; India; Indonesia; Iran; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Poland, China, the Russian Federation; the Republic of Korea, Taipei, Thailand, and Ukraine. As of 29th April 2020 there were export bans in place in 80 countries.
Transport and Shipping Constraints
Roadblocks, quarantine measures and further regulatory requirements to export goods has led to significant delays in moving freight. With space availability on airlines being at an all time low, importers are facing unexpected delays whereby stock is waiting longer at suppliers once ready.