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Port of LA’s Seroka helps procure 24 million masks

Mayor Eric Garcetti grateful for “lifesaving purchase agreement” with Honeywell

Gene Seroka is serving as Los Angeles’ chief logistics officer during the coronavirus crisis. (Photos: Port of LA)

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka is being credited with brokering a deal with Honeywell that will net the city of Los Angeles 24 million N95 masks over the coming months.

“I am so grateful to Gene and his team for what I know has been weeks of negotiations,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a press conference Tuesday, calling the masks’ procurement a “lifesaving purchase agreement.”

Garcetti just in the past month named Seroka LA’s first chief logistics officer and gave him the weighty task of procuring and distributing medical supplies critical to the fight against the coronavirus.

Honeywell will produce the face masks in Phoenix and they will be sold to first responders and LA-area hospitals at cost. Garcetti said the first 100,000 N95 masks will be delivered in May, with 500,000 arriving by July. Production will be scaled up to deliver 1.2 million masks per month by November.

Seroka said at the press conference that part of the mayor’s Victory LA initiative “was to find ways to speed product to market using the great seaport of Los Angeles as well as LAX and our knowledge of the domestic transportation network to make sure we are highlighting and prioritizing these critical shipments to get them to our hospitals.”

“The hospitals have told us they have very little visibility into the last mile of receiving this product, so we put together a technology platform that coincides with our Port Optimizer, called the Medical Optimizer, and it was simply a plug-in to our larger port system that can now start with purchase order management to supply development and understand where the gap lies in between. That use of data will make the decision-making process that much quicker so we can get the product directly to market,” Seroka said.

The team will now tackle matching supply with demand.

“With this tech system I mentioned, it gives hospitals the opportunity to send demand signals electronically to us, and at the platform we’re matching that demand requirement with those suppliers who have been vetted,” Seroka said.

“In the middle, we’re building our LA stockpile,” he said. “The federal stockpile is nonexistent. Unfortunately, the state is so oversubscribed with so many folks looking for help, we decided to go out and do it on our own. So the inventory levels of all these products are starting to build and we’re getting them out to the hospitals.”

Seroka thanked companies that have donated goods, including Apple, which provided 160,000 face shields, and French shipping line CMA CGM, which donated surgical-grade face masks. “And NEXT Trucking, right here in Gardena, hand-delivered face masks that we gave to our truck drivers, the Teamsters and so many others in the Harbor Trucking Association that needed help.”

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.