Learn How Salesforce Sourced PPE for Groups in Need

Learning Objectives 

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Access a basic framework for sourcing PPE for your organization’s needs.
  • Describe lessons learned from the Salesforce journey to procure PPE for groups in need, including hospitals, nursing facilities, fire departments, and underserved communities.

The Salesforce Journey to Procure PPE for Groups in Need

In spring of 2020, a small team at Salesforce embarked on a journey to source 50 million units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to support frontline organizations across the world, including hospitals, nursing facilities, fire departments, and underserved communities.

The Salesforce project resulted in over 50 million units of PPE being delivered to organizations in need, and we learned lessons along the way that may be valuable to you in sourcing PPE for your organization’s needs.

This unit is designed to give you the tools to get started sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) for your organization’s needs. This is intended as a general framework to help you get started, not as a how-to manual for every step that you may need to take in meeting your PPE needs. As always, you should consult your own legal counsel to help guide your organization's journey into the complex world of global PPE sourcing. See Disclaimer at the end of this unit for more details. 

How Our Journey Started

Hear directly from Ryan Aytay, co-CEO of Quip and EVP of Strategic Partnerships at Salesforce, about the Salesforce journey to acquire 50 million units of PPE.

This effort was achieved by building a task force that focused 100% on procuring PPE, all while learning to collaborate in our new, virtual world. Included here are some critical lessons Salesforce learned through the process to help you get started.

Building a PPE Task Force 

Before you begin sourcing PPE, it’s important to identify the core group of individuals that will be part of your task force. Here are a few guiding principles to help you build the right team.

  • Ensure you have the support of your organization’s leaders. Depending on the scope of your goals, you may need permission to delegate “normal job” responsibilities to focus on this task. Make sure your leaders are behind you and that you’re aligned on the end goals.
  • Bring in people with different skill sets. Sourcing PPE requires a variety of skill sets, from negotiating orders to coordinating logistics to communicating updates. Consider bringing in people with different skill sets to help you run your task force like any other business.
  • Don’t bring in more people than you need. Moving with speed is extremely important when sourcing PPE. Consider keeping your team small but nimble by design.
  • If possible, include bilingual individuals on your team. With many manufacturers located in a few select countries, it may be helpful to have local language speakers on your team. Depending on your supplier’s locations, you may also need to engage regional teams (if you have them) to keep conversations moving around the clock.

Once you’ve assembled your core team, you should engage the right stakeholders who can advise you along the way.

Creating a Team of Stakeholders

The following are key stakeholders that you should engage as you source PPE. Consider assigning specific people on your task force to be core liaisons with each extended team of stakeholders.

  • Legal and Government Affairs: There are a lot of important rules that you should understand when you are importing healthcare equipment. Especially during challenging times, it’s important to coordinate with the right government agencies and to follow their rules. That helps everyone get the equipment they need, where and when they need it.
  • Finance: It goes without saying that buying PPE requires money. Keep your finance team in alignment with you so that you’re able to execute orders quickly when the time comes.
  • Procurement and Sourcing: Even if your company doesn’t regularly source materials from abroad, it’s likely that your procurement team will have expertise to help with areas like vetting suppliers and coordinating logistics.
  • Global Trade or Ethics & Compliance: This is often a separate department from Legal or Procurement and is critical for all the supplier checks, customs analysis, and freight forwarder risks.
  • Public Relations: At some point, there may be a time and place to share your progress. It is important to work with your PR team to stay aligned on both internal and external communications.

Working as a Team

  • Start with a clear goal. It’s important to write down your vision statement and use that as your North Star.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities. Give everyone on the team a clear role.
  • Meet regularly and consider time zones. Depending on the urgency of your goals, set up a regular cadence for your team to connect.
  • Create and operationalize a process. Create a document to track your meeting agenda. If you have multiple orders in progress, consider tracking these orders in one single place like Quip so everyone can collaborate efficiently.
  • Leverage your core team as a “decision-making committee.” Use your regular meetings as a way to bring up roadblocks, quickly make group decisions, and assign owners to follow up with key stakeholders as necessary.
  • Keep the company informed along the way. Consider sending a weekly recap to your leaders or sharing updates in your company’s all-hands meetings.

Procuring PPE with Your Team

Below are high-level steps to consider when procuring PPE. For each step, be sure to engage your key stakeholders.

How to Procure PPE Key Stakeholders
Determine what type of PPE meets your needs
Search for vendors/suppliers
Engage and vet vendors/suppliers
Legal, Procurement, Ethics & Compliance
Place orders
Finance, Procurement
Engage and vet freight forwarders
Legal, Procurement, Ethics & Compliance
Determine and coordinate mode(s) of transport (air, ocean, road)
Legal, Procurement
Track entire process (payments, logistics, orders)
PPE project owner
Receive shipments

Lessons Learned Along the Way

  • Operate with a sense of urgency. Many businesses want to help deliver PPE to the front lines but aren’t sure how to act. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just to start. If you’re looking to source for your own uses, it is also important to operate with urgency to ensure that orders are delivered, because the customs and import rules change frequently.
  • Understand and follow the regulatory rules. While urgency is important, even a small shortcut can set your whole effort back. It’s important to take the right care with the small details and follow applicable laws and regulations.
  • Design a workflow and process. Working fast isn’t necessarily efficient if you’re not working smart. Design a workflow that works for your team. Choosing the right technology is critical here.
  • Ensure transparency and alignment with government emergency management agencies. If you’re distributing PPE, work with government emergency management agencies as they know what is needed and where, as well as the potential rules that may need to be complied with when distributing PPE.
  • Consider other modes of transportation. When it comes to importing PPE, both air and ocean should be considered. Work with your freight forwarder to coordinate the right path for you.
  • Rely on your partners. Your network is more powerful than what you can accomplish alone. Use your relationships to help you along the way. Of course, take the same care to vet your partners as you would your suppliers to ensure that they are the right fit.
  • Stay focused on your goal with a beginner’s mind. Having a clear vision is critical for staying focused on your end goal. Don’t try to do everything at once, and take it one step at a time.


Please see the Terms of Use that apply to this Guide. Capitalized terms used but not defined in this paragraph have the meanings given to them in the Terms of Use. Without limiting the Terms of Use, by accessing, using this Guide or its content you acknowledge and agree that: (a) this Guide and its contents are only intended to describe Salesforce’s experiences in sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; (b) as such, this Guide and its contents should not be relied on for the purposes of any similar sourcing efforts that may be carried out by you; and (c) the Salesforce Affiliated Parties make no representations, warranties or conditions of any kind, whether express, implied, statutory or otherwise, and specifically disclaim all representations, warranties and conditions, whether express, implied or otherwise, to the maximum extent permitted under applicable law regarding this Guide or any of its content. Without limiting the Terms of Use, the Salesforce Affiliated Parties disclaim all liability and indemnification obligations for any harm or damage caused by you or otherwise related to your use of this Guide or its content. Regulations and considerations associated with the procurement and distribution of PPE are complex and vary by jurisdiction. Please always consult with your own legal counsel and advisors.


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