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A mission to keep our people safe

  • June 22, 2020
  • 2 min read

As lockdown restrictions took hold in New Zealand and the rest of the world, businesses across the globe fought to secure masks – the best thing since hand sanitiser in the fight against COVID-19.

Fonterra was quick to prioritise the safety of our essential workers in operations, sites and stores.  As some of us embarked on a new normal of working from home, our front-line staff still had to turn up each day to process our farmers’ milk.

Fonterra UHT team

Mask supply became critical in the first 24 hours following lockdown.  Globally, every country wanted to procure ‘KN95’ masks for their frontline staff – and China couldn’t manufacture them fast enough. Fonterra’s China team was able to provide Fonterra operations worldwide with stock early, but as borders shut, supply demand sped up and airfreight transit slowed, Fonterra had to secure private charters to fly masks out.

Working full-time, it took Fonterra’s Procurement team three weeks to secure a reliable supply chain from China.  Meanwhile, teams in New Zealand worked tirelessly to source and secure any mask located and available inside the country.  But this was only a few thousand and we were consuming upward of 10,000 a week to keep manufacturing operations going and our essential workers safe.

Not only were our teams consolidating demand for manufacturing, they were also working across Fonterra’s multiple operations, including Farm Source, distribution centres, Fonterra brands, franchisees and corporate offices to make sure we knew the full demand for masks across all our New Zealand operations.

As stock finally arrived in New Zealand, Fonterra staff drove to warehouses in Auckland to collect supply and deliver it to Hamilton, with their cars and vans packed full of KN95 masks to provide to our front-line employees.

Masks in storage ready to distribute

A training room at Fonterra’s Te Rapa manufacturing site became the operations base, with a team packing and distributing masks to all sites, stores and distribution centres based on their weekly consumption rates. It was a tight operation and with people working around the clock to secure supply Fonterra was able to meet stock demands, despite the challenges. 

Although New Zealand’s restrictions are easing, we now face a continuing challenge as some of Fonterra’s overseas operations feel the full force of COVID-19.  With supply chains established and New Zealand’s stock of masks now in abundance, we’ve been able to supply our peers in Latin America for Fonterra’s Soprole business.  It means they save time securing protection and can carry on fulfilling production demand, safely.

Through lateral thinking, teamwork and perseverance across multiple parts of the Co-operative, Fonterra has been able to continue supply uninterrupted, while also keeping its people safe.