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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer packaged goods and other food suppliers have played a critical role in ensuring consumers have access to essential household items. Abbott’s nutrition business is at the forefront of delivering these trusted food products to more than 20 million people every day, worldwide. For more than 130 years, Abbott has provided health care products and services to support the healthy lives of consumers and patients, and that commitment remains steadfast as we work to protect continuity of supply during times of unprecedented need.

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, we, like other manufacturers, were faced with a unique set of challenges, including the sudden increase in demand for our products, rapidly evolving distribution challenges, and the need to implement new safeguards to protect our employees’ health and well-being. The changes we have faced in the past few months have heightened the need for building even more resilient supply chains to quickly adjust to this new world, and we attribute that resiliency to three focus areas:

1 A Culture of Adapting to Meet Customer Needs. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do. To make and deliver the highest quality products, on time, every time, we constantly evaluate our manufacturing process and share best practices across all 14 of our global sites. Our teams came together to help when it was needed most. As our Abbott China nutrition manufacturing facility first worked to navigate the pandemic, experts across our supply chain were there to help troubleshoot and identify solutions. We implemented business continuity plans and addressed occupational health procedures to support our employees’ and suppliers’ well-being and safety. Our sites and global teams stayed in constant contact to share information, new best practices, and evolving solutions for the fast-moving situation.

2 Ensuring Quality Every Step of the Way. Two things allow our nutrition supply chain to operate efficiently: our quality systems and our people. Our quality systems govern our farm-to-family life cycle. They are comprised of documented ingredient sourcing, manufacturing and finished products testing processes, and innovative manufacturing technology that detects the smallest deviations throughout production and packaging. We’ve implemented these systems with our suppliers, in our labs, on the manufacturing floors, and in our distribution process. When strategically placed at every part of our supply chain, we allow data to drive our improvements to ensure we meet our standards of quality before our products reach our customers. But, ultimately, it’s our people and their dedication to these quality systems that drive our success. Our systems are engrained in our culture through a set of behaviors we call the Pledge. Key to these behaviors is making sure that every employee understands the part they play in making our products safe. They also are equipped with the data and resources needed to help them identify problems, make fact-based decisions, properly report issues, and correct them before they cause disruption. And when our people understand and recognize the importance of their work, it helps us keep quality at the forefront of our business.

3 Focusing on Food Safety. Finally, a strong food safety culture helps create resiliency in our supply chain. Our food safety and security team is continually monitoring the global landscape and evolving regulatory guidelines around the world. Having this aggressive surveillance already in place proved to be even more beneficial as the pandemic spread, as the world saw many countries close borders, issue stay-at-home orders, and institute stricter public health policies in the face of uncertainty. It enabled us to leverage the global scale of our supply chain and immediately identify areas of concern and escalate them to our task force to quickly redirect resources or amend plans to deliver for our customers.

While our world has drastically changed in a short time, having the right foundational principles in place helped create a more resilient supply chain. We focus on and prioritize what matters: our people, our customers, and our quality and food safety. From Columbus, Ohio, to Zwolle, Netherlands, to Jiaxing, China, our consumers are getting the same high-quality, safe products from Abbott.

Lori Randall Divisional Vice President, Quality Assurance, Abbott, Nutrition