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Coats: Pivoting to PPE in Response to COVID-19

As the world’s largest industrial manufacturer of thread, Coats makes products that are used in just about every scenario where fabric or fibers are needed. With 36 manufacturing facilities around the world, the company has the scope and resources to support a wide range of customers. But this same large, operational footprint could have spelled disaster for the 265-year old company when COVID-19 arrived, bringing with it so many disruptions to supply chains and the world as we know it.

Fortunately for Coats, the company was well underway building the digital backbone it needed to modernize and rejuvenate what had been a fairly traditional operation. Foundational to this strategy was a shift to the cloud. Working closely with technology partners SAP and Microsoft, Coats was able to convert its operation to a digital, real-time model, responding to changes in the moment and streamlining workflows through to finished goods.

The decision by Coats to invest heavily in digital technologies was prescient. As showcased in a recent video, it certainly allowed the company to pivot quickly and respond globally when the pandemic arrived.

 

Taking care of business during a pandemic

When COVID-19 struck, the impact was felt around the world. Healthcare was hit hardest, grappling with everything from lack of beds, ventilators, and medicine, to the need for essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect frontline workers.

As a thread manufacturer, Coats immediately saw an opportunity to help its customers with the production and supply of PPE. The biggest potential stumbling block was the complexity of its supply chain, which involved hundreds of thousands of moving parts, any of which could fail and disrupt the delivery of PPE supplies to those who needed it most.

“The problem was communication and collaboration across the supply chain,” stated Keith Fenner, Managing Director, Coats Digital. “By working in the cloud, we were able to communicate, collaborate, and share data. This level of visibility was key to the success of the project.”

 

One vision. 36 manufacturing facilities.

Most Coats customers were not in the PPE business pre-pandemic, but many wanted to help. Along with meeting demand, Coats recognized the value in providing a standardized solution that would help quickly shift any manufacturer to PPE production. In support of this, the company created some PPE libraries, distributing them to customers for reference and guidance.

Another critical requirement was maintaining real-time oversight across every Coats facility around the world. With joint solutions from SAP and Microsoft, operational information from all 36 facilities was stored within one connected system.

“We needed to see what was in production across all plants, every customer order, current capacity, inventory levels, and other key information,” stated Kevin Givens, Head of Supply Chain, Coats North America.

This type of real-time data provided Coats with amazing agility. If one manufacturing facility was short on personnel or supplies, the company could quickly pivot to a different location, so that production was not disrupted and PPE deliveries could continue to flow around the world.

Coats employees were also supported. With all systems and data accessible in the cloud, a good portion of the workforce was able to perform their duties remotely to further ensure a smooth and continuous operation.

“We could never have done this alone,” said Fenner. “By working with our partners—SAP and Microsoft—we were able to help accelerate the production of critical PPE at a time when the world needed it most.”

 

For more information on Coats

Watch the video to learn how Coats was able to pivot quickly and respond globally in response to the pandemic.  And watch this space for an upcoming in-depth discussion with key stakeholders from Coats, all of whom participated in each step of the company’s journey. Perspectives will be shared from Coats experts in supply chain, digital, data science and analytics.

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