In June 2013, the Pollutant Standards Index hit hazardous levels for the first time in Singapore’s history. The worsening haze situation led to an escalating demand for N95 masks. Through MINDEF, DSTA was activated to assist in building up the national stockpile of these masks for the Ministry of Health (MOH). Among the large stockpile quantity required, the bulk of it was required within two weeks.

The large stockpile quantity could not be fulfilled by a single supplier within a short period. Moreover, the spike in the demand of N95 masks from neighbouring countries badly affected by the haze also created a strain on the supply in the region.

Despite the emergency situation, the DSTA team successfully engaged in global sourcing of the masks from local and overseas suppliers. To identify all potential sources of supply, the team referred to past purchase data, leveraged the networks of other teams working on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosives protection, and tapped the global network of MINDEF’s Defence Technology Offices in Europe and the US.

The selection criterion was based on the supplier’s ability to deliver a large quantity of N95 masks within a short period of time and at a reasonable price. The team worked closely with the Health Sciences Authority and MOH to ensure that the right type and quantity of masks was purchased. As time was of the essence, the team held daily meetings with MOH to monitor the sourcing, stocking and delivery statuses so as to resolve issues promptly.

Within five working days, the team managed to establish the contracts for S$24 million worth of masks from various sources. Apart from ensuring the timely delivery of these masks, the team also achieved cost savings of approximately S$14 million as compared with market pricing.