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Manufacturers of surgical gloves struggle to keep up

Manufacturers of Surgical Gloves

Manufacturers of surgical gloves struggle to keep up

Surgical gloves were once only really in demand from the medical sector. Growing public demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) following the Covid-19 outbreak has meant manufacturers of surgical gloves struggle to meet demand.

Manufacturers of surgical gloves have had to rethink their business model and recruit heavily to meet demand, with the global PPE market forecast to grow from a value of $52.43 billion in 2019 to $92.86 billion in 2027.

Like other areas of the PPE market, including medical-grade masks, gowns and hand sanitising gels, nitrile gloves demand is expected to continue booming. But what exactly are surgical gloves and how do they differ from the rubber washing up gloves you find in your kitchen?

What are surgical gloves?

Surgical gloves are also known as nitrile gloves or medical grade gloves. Common kinds of surgical gloves include nitrile, powder free nitrile and vinyl gloves. Medical grade gloves come with the advantage of having been rigorously tested before being released for sale, and Medicshield’s equipment is independently tested at medical universities in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Surgical gloves have the advantage of being latex free. They are made of nitrile, which is thin enough to allow for very fine motor movements while still protecting the wearer from infections.

How much has demand increased?

According to Austrian manufacturers of surgical gloves, Sempreit, nitrile glove demand has seen a threefold increase over the course of the past year. Netherlands-based firm Shield Scientific reports similar issues, with the bulk of its orders coming from concerned members of the general public rather than its usual medical customers.

The increase in demand is not confined to Europe. Malaysia-based company Top Glove, which describes itself as the world’s largest manufacturers of surgical gloves, the NHS glove supplier, reports that its monthly sales are currently reaching 12 billion pairs of gloves. In comparison, their pre-pandemic figure was 4.5 million.

What has this done to supply chains?

Surgical gloves are a disposable product. This causes a level of nitrile glove demand that has understandably been causing supply chain issues for producers. Manufacturers have been struggling to locate the raw materials needed to make the gloves, as well as running into problems with supply chains and logistics.

Top Glove’s CEO has stated that this unprecedented increase in demand has led to customer waiting times of 600 days compared to their normal 30-40 day delivery estimates.

Who uses surgical gloves?

As the name suggests, surgical gloves are most often used by medical professionals. Nitrile glove demand, along with demand for face masks and gowns, is still largely driven by the medical sector.

Powder free nitrile gloves are sometimes recommended for use when working with rare and fragile archival materials. They prevent the skin’s natural oils from damaging delicate materials including parchment and paper. The thinness of the gloves allows archive users to carefully handle the materials they are consulting, minimising the risk of any archival items becoming damaged.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, increasing numbers of members of the general public have also been purchasing barrier equipment, including surgical gloves, as part of their attempts to shield themselves from the virus. Evidence surrounding the efficiency of nitrile glove use for the general public is still mixed depending on context.

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