AmCham Indonesia Platinum Member Air Products (AP) is among the most prominent of the many multinational companies involved in Covid-19 relief in Indonesia through its supply of oxygen.
Established in 1940, it has supplied industrial gas products and related equipment and expertise to a number of industries and has become a global leader in gas technology and equipment. Today, it has over 19,000 employees across 50 countries. Its local subsidiary, Air Products Indonesia, was established in 1990 and now has three production plants in Cikarang, Gresik, and Sei Mangkei. In addition, the company has announced two major greenfield investments in coal gasification in Indonesia, both of which are Strategic National Projects.
More recently, the company has played a key role in fulfilling demands for medical oxygen by shifting production away from industry due to the severity of the Delta Variant Covid-19 outbreak.
To learn more about what Air Products has done to support the Covid-19 response, AmCham Indonesia spoke with Triwidio Pramono, President Director of Air Products Indonesia, who has worked for the company for over 10 years.
AmCham Indonesia: How did Air Products begin working with the Indonesian government on the Covid-19 response?
Triwidio Pramono: Originally, we supplied our products, including oxygen, to industry. We did supply other consumers such as hospitals indirectly through distributors, but our focus was still on the industrial sector. However, as we know, Covid-19 cases rose sharply and are still increasing. Demand rose and supplies were not enough. In response, the Indonesian government released a mandate for oxygen producers to prioritize medical oxygen. We reallocated about 90 percent of our production for medical use. Air Products and other industrial gas companies work under that mandate to fulfill the increased demand for oxygen.
Could you tell us about your oxygen donation initiative?
We actually work together with companies who want to donate oxygen for their CSR efforts. We supply them with our products and allow them to put their logos on the oxygen they are donating. Several SOEs [state-owned enterprises] are working together with AP, for example, PLN and Kaltim Methanol Indonesia, to donate directly to hospitals in Central Java and Yogyakarta. Based on the shortage of domestic oxygen, eventually, we decided to add the supply of liquid oxygen from the Air Products plant in Sakra on Jurong Island to the Singapore government’s program of assistance to the Indonesian government. Singapore has organized multiple shipments in the form of ventilators, concentrators, oxygen cylinders, and ISO tanks for liquid oxygen.
What obstacles or challenges do you face in your initiatives to distribute oxygen?
First, we had to convince our industrial clients. We cannot just shift our supply without their permission, because we already have agreements to supply them with our products. It’s not easy to convince our industrial clients as this has major impacts on their business, especially if they already have contracts with their own customers. So it takes a lot of time, effort, and patience from our team to convince them.
Second, we had to push very hard with our factory at more than 100 percent capacity, and [remain] stable. Before this, we did not have to worry about plant interruptions or shutdowns that much - there was less pressure. But now, the smallest hurdles in our production will cause lots of noise among the public. We have to monitor more closely and control our production to make it as stable as possible. We make sure that all spare parts are in stock, and adjust our maintenance schedule to minimize downtime.
The third challenge is distribution. For industrial clients, we usually send our products directly using tankers. Now that we deal mostly with the medical sector, where we don’t deal with clients directly but through distributors, we had to set up a new distribution schedule. They have to pick up oxygen at our plant before distributing it to the end-users such as hospitals and oxygen refill facilities, and we have to avoid mistakes as much as we can. Sometimes we have to throw our schedule out the window when emergency situations arise. That’s the reality in the field. Sometimes we get requests from the Ministry of Health, and from hospitals that need oxygen ASAP. We have to be flexible with timing, so we can fulfill high priority and emergency needs.
As we are considered a critical sector, we have adjusted our business operations since the pandemic began in March 2020, in accordance with government regulations. When non-essential sectors have to stay out of their offices, as oxygen producers our company has to be ready 24/7. We have to work full-time and make sure we don’t get sick. Of course, there were cases where some team members fell ill, but we can still mitigate and manage the situation.
With the emergency in Indonesia ongoing, how will Air Products continue to stay involved in Covid-19 response?
We do hope that the situation can get back to normal soon; none of us want to be in this disheartening situation any longer. We hope that industrial activities can resume as soon as possible, because if not, it will disrupt our economic growth and reduce employment. We hope to continue supporting the healthcare sector by continuing to supply oxygen for medical treatment. Once the situation comes back to normal, we will gradually shift our course back to fulfilling demands for the industrial sector, so that we can support its growth and productivity. We also hope that the government and citizens can work together to reduce Covid-19 cases. Even if the current situation isn’t so bright, we have to keep supporting each other.