Continuing in a Crisis

Article by Robert Walker CEng FIChemE

Robert Walker explains the lessons he learned in successfully enabling critical gas supplies to continue throughout the pandemic

THE Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work and act, in ways we could never have predicted. In particular, the virus has forced us to adapt and accelerate new working practices that have now become standard procedures. From wearing face masks in “normal” environments to working exclusively from home (the first time for many of us), it’s been a global, yet essential, culture shock.

However, it is this agility and speed that has been key to protecting many of our front-line services and keeping our
businesses going.

Of course, our healthcare providers have been going above and beyond to save lives and keep our health services running. This hasn’t just meant treating patients at the point of need, but also careful planning to guard against the potential of services being overwhelmed by increased future demand. This meant that the supply chain also had to step up.

It will come as no surprise to hear the most vital product Air Products has delivered to hospitals during the last year has been medical oxygen. In part, due to our supply of medical gases to hospitals across the UK, we were identified by the UK Government as a critical supplier. It was therefore essential for us to safely maintain the security of our supply, as well as supporting a number of hospital upgrades, including the installation of additional oxygen systems at NHS Nightingale in Birmingham, NHS Louisa Jordan in Scotland, and two Rainbow Hospitals in Wales.

So what have we learnt about enabling industrial gas supplies to continue during times of critical need or crisis and how could that help others in our industry?

Embracing change

Relying on tried-and-tested operating procedures might seem a sensible approach in many crisis situations but when you’re facing excessive demand for a product that is saving people’s lives on a mass scale, you have to be open minded to embrace new ways of working too. We had to find solutions that would meet the sheer demand and not cut any corners, so we decided very early on that we wouldn’t be afraid of changing things if needed. This included modifying processes, that had been used for decades, to ensure we could monitor the performance of industrial gas systems away from site and prevent interruptions to supply.

Article by Robert Walker CEng FIChemE

Principal Projects Team Leader at Air Products

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