Pictured Above Mark Cox
By Scott Robertson
Eastman’s approach to the Coronavirus is to be overprepared but to respond proportionately to whatever arises, said Mark Cox, senior vice president, chief manufacturing, supply chain and engineering officer. Cox is heading up Eastman’s task force responding to Coronavirus concerns.
Cox spoke with bjournal.com recently about the company’s response to the crisis in terms of supply chain concerns, operations and markets. Regarding operations, Cox said, “We’re making sure we have good contingency plans in place and understand what we would do if there were a serious outbreak in one of the regions where we operate.”
Eastman’s operations in Wuhan could resume operations as soon as this week, CEO Mark Costa has said. In the meantime, the workload from that facility is being handled at another Eastman plant in Estonia. Eastman operates more than 50 plants worldwide.
Cox said the from the standpoint of supply chain disruption, the effects so far have been relatively mild. “By volume, we’re the 16th largest exporter from the United States, so we use every mode of transport,” Cox said. “We use marine, rail and truck. So, in Kingsport, our largest operation, we’re double-served by rail but we also send material to Charleston, for example, for export all over the world. In Longview Texas, we’re double-served by rail there also.
“We have seen supply chain disruption in China,” Cox said, “primarily in the form of less than truckload quantities of movement over the road. Marine disruption is a certainty globally in terms of ships calling on port in China and not having material to pick up.”
That having been said, Eastman is examining its options in case of other outbreaks. “We are thinking about things like where would we pre-position material, for instance, in the event of a significant outbreak in the US or in Europe with regard to operations. Again, we make circa 1500 products and we have all kinds of chemistries and mechanical processes we use around the globe. We’re prioritizing those in terms of how we would respond in each region which plants would run how they would run how we would staff them should do there be an outbreak.”
Market disruption is the least predictable area, Cox said. “We have communicated with our customers that we are doing contingency planning and as I said, we’ve been able to supply our customers without significant issue. But that planning includes looking at our suppliers and our inventories of supplies to make sure we have proper raw materials and have access to those – or communicating should an outbreak occur if we did not. But we don’t know exactly what markets will be affected, but as we see the next weeks unfold, we do have the right sensors in place to understand how to respond.”