The magnitude of the pandemic will be measured in many ways, some of which are more quantifiable – but no less impactful – than others.
As a leader supporting the pandemic supplies initiative on campus, Mark Durnin, points to the volume of incoming pandemic supplies and the strained supply chain as good indicators of the enormity of the pandemic – from Western’s perspective.
In all, Durnin estimates the university has consumed more than $1 million worth of pandemic supplies as we pass the 16-month mark. What would have been an inconceivable amount of unplanned impact to budgets, it is one that continues to rise as the world maneuvers through the second summer in a global pandemic and a new academic year on the horizon.
“It’s a little tricky to get a total cost for supplies, as there are a number of avenues in which we procure items – not to mention we are still incurring associated costs,” says Durnin, facilities management director for business operations.
Mustang Market, Western’s online procurement service, is the primary tool for purchasing equipment and supplies from the university’s preferred vendors. Beginning last year, pandemic supplies were added to the inventory and highlighted on Mustang Market. At the discretion of department and division members, supplies could be ordered through the online service for staff and faculty.
Durnin notes that this service does not represent the complete picture, as these figures don’t include resupplying wall mounted sanitizer pumps, or the personal protective equipment worn by facilities management and other frontline staff. The figure also doesn’t include the added cleaners and wipes used by building services staff, who have increased sanitizing of high-touch surfaces.
“We are well past the $1M mark once we combine supplies ordered by the campus community on Mustang Market and those procured for our frontline staff,” comments Durnin.
Along with the heavy financial cost, Durnin notes the pandemic also put pressure on supply chain logistics, and Western administration had to be clever and persistent to keep these supplies on hand.
“It was no surprise that the rest of the world is also competing for these scarce pandemic supplies,” says Durnin. “For me, when our procurement services teammates had challenges ordering in the supplies we needed, this was when I began to feel the full weight of the situation.”
As a result, Western leaders took a strategic approach in early 2020 to strengthen the system for resupplying campus, leveraging several areas to combat the issue.
“If not for the collaborative inter-department approach, I don’t believe we would have been able to keep the shelves stocked,” admits Durnin.
He lauds the work of the financial service procurement teams for their persistence in acquiring vendors. He also acknowledges the contribution of the occupational health and safety teams for steering officials toward products that would best serve the campus community.
“Our main concern after acquiring supplies was to manage distribution across campus,” says Durnin. “With a more free-flowing supply chain coming in, we didn’t want to have a bottleneck on our end.”
To complement the efforts of procurement and health and safety, the facilities management stores team oversaw the influx of supplies that needed to be received, inventoried, picked, packed and distributed. With support from parking and visitor services staff, orders were expedited. An already-busy stores team, which stepped up for centralized receiving for virtually all of Western’s incoming packages, equipment and supplies during the pandemic, also added thousands of pandemic supplies which were deemed high priority.
Taking a step back, Durnin admits there were significant roadblocks along the way that could have derailed the ability to acquire needed supplies. However, through collaboration and a strategic approach, the daunting task of resupplying campus has been a success story.
“I guess we’ve always known about the calibre of our teams here in facilities management, and our great partners on campus, particularly financial services and human resources” says Durnin. “Sometimes we need a little nudge to be reminded of that – or in this case, a big nudge.”