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The supplier is making more N95 respirators than ever before. Pre-pandemic surge capacity and a focus on real-time visibility enabled the quick shift.

3M is familiar with pivoting its supply chain for global health emergencies. The manufacturer developed surge capacity during the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s — and two decades later, that buffer enabled it to quickly accelerate production of high-priority SKUs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The manufacturer began ramping up production of N95 respirators in January, from 22 million per month pre-pandemic to 26 million.

By June, 3M was making 50 million respirators per month. It added two new respirator lines at a Wisconsin plant in Q3. It dropped non-critical SKUs and refitted production lines for critical supplies, according to Kaitlyn DeSpiegler, global transportation specialist at 3M, speaking at FourKites’ visibility conference in September.

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