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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): How To Choose The Right Supplier

Buying personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene and testing products since the outbreak of Covid-19 has been fraught with challenges and many suppliers have been found wanting. There have been countless reports in the news of deliveries being late or lost, of exorbitant prices, and equipment arriving below standard.

So how can you ensure that you choose a reliable partner to supply your much-needed PPE? 

Here are our recommendations for what to consider when narrowing down your selection to help you choose the right supplier for your organisation:

Essential Criteria

The first step in choosing the right supplier is based on them meeting your essential criteria. These criteria will vary for each organisation but if you’re looking for N95 masks manufactured by 3M, then you can eliminate all those suppliers that don’t supply N95 3M masks. Equally, if you’re working to a particular deadline, you can eliminate all those suppliers that can’t meet it.

Value Alignment

Until recently, many organisations have stopped their search for a supplier once they found one that met their essential criteria. The result has been that many have overpaid or received products that don’t meet their quality requirements. But Covid-19 is here for the foreseeable future and organisations are beginning to move away from panic buying their PPE and hygiene products, to instituting sustainable solutions for sourcing them.

For many organisations, a sustainable solution will take the form of finding a supplier they can trust as a partner to serve their needs in the long term.

When choosing any long-term partner, it’s important to ensure that their values align with yours. The values and operating methods of a supplier are good indicators of whether you will be able to trust them. If you value transparency, you should look for a supplier that is honest with their pricing models. If you value philanthropy, perhaps you will look for a partner that pledges a percentage of their profits to charity. Whatever your organisation’s values, choosing a supplier that shares them is a good start to building a relationship.


Good communication with your supplier is important because if an issue arises with your shipment, you need to know that they will be quick to respond. Therefore, while you’re still in the process of choosing a supplier, keep in mind how good they are at communicating with you. Are you often bounced around from person to person? Do they take days (or weeks!) to respond to simple queries? These should be signs that they are not the supplier for you.

However, if they are quick to respond, attentive to your needs and easy to get hold of, you can be assured that they are likely to maintain that good communication from order placement, to shipment, and until you are completely satisfied with your products.


Having a good relationship with your supplier means nothing if the quality of the products they supply are not up to standard. Some organisations will have higher standards than others that they need to satisfy but having identified the certifications and standards that the products need to meet, you need to ensure that the products comply with them.

A trustworthy supplier should have no objections to showing you the certifications that each of the products they supply has and should be transparent about where they are made and by which manufacturers. 


We all know that the cheapest option is not always the best option and could mean low quality or a far-off delivery date. But many struggle to look beyond the bottom line and this has led to countless organisations being misled in recent months by suppliers over promising and under delivering. Our advice is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Your supplier should be completely honest about their ability to deliver products. If several suppliers have said their lead time is 6 weeks, and one says they can deliver within 2, you should query why this is. Perhaps they already have the stock in a local warehouse, in which case you can breathe easy. Or perhaps they are over promising to lock in the order. The way to find out is to obtain assurances and proof that what they are promising can be delivered. 

The Decision

Having considered all of the above, it’s likely that’s you will have narrowed down your selection to very few suppliers. All that remains, is to decide between them. If cost is more important to you than fast delivery, choose the supplier offering a lower price for a longer delivery time. If communication is most important to you, choose the supplier that has been most attentive.

About Tutum Protect

Tutum Protect is born with the sole purpose of trying to create certainty and stability in fragmented and disrupted supply and distribution chains. Our mission is to help the African private and public health sectors better access the global supply of Personal Protection Equipment and Medical Equipment.

Through access to established producers all over the world, from 3M in the US, to rigorously tested Asian and European manufacturers, Tutum Protect can bring the certainty and safety of timely deliveries.

We practice a high degree of transparency over the pricing of the products we source and are quick to react to challenges which may arise over their supply. 

Our promise is to act with integrity and in South Africa we are committed to donating 10% of our annual income to The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and are aligned with the permissions required by the World Health Organisation, (WHO).

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