C.H. Robinson has helped the state save $1 million in logistics costs to build a store of personal protective equipment.

The state now has more than 72 million pieces of PPE, including face masks, eye protection, gloves and N95 respirators. C.H. Robinson is helping the state redo its logistics again to cut the costs now that stores are at a good level.

The state of Minnesota reached out to local business leaders in mid-March for their help in securing badly needed PPE supplies. The task force was led by Ecolab CEO Doug Baker, but with contributions from companies such as C.H. Robinson to 3M, Polaris and Target.

“It’s been nothing short of rewarding,” said Bob Biesterfeld, chief executive of Eden Prairie-based C.H. Robinson, about working with the state interagency team and other companies.

The collaborative group also worked to find emergency supplies of ventilators and sources for cloth masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer.

“C.H. Robinson’s global expertise and scale provided the state with critical logistics and supply-chain assistance that reduced the transportation costs and time needed to secure PPE needed for front-line health care workers,” said Wayne Waslaski, the state’s project manager for the project.

C.H. Robinson allocated five or six people to the project, including chief commercial officer Chris O’Brien.

While hospitals are responsible for maintaining their own supply chains, the state’s goal was to fill a warehouse for when a health care provider’s inventory fell to three days worth or lower. The stockpile is now large enough the state can optimize the supply chain, switching from expensive airfreight, for example, to direct route ocean transportation, Biesterfeld said.

“Taking days out, taking dollars out has been a real success story in how we’ve contributed to this,” he said.

From the outset, Minnesota had to compete with other state and federal agencies to secure PPE while dealing with significant challenges on price, changing regulations and fraud. Biesterfeld points out more PPE demand channels have opened since, but as the economy reopens more businesses from barber shops to offices also will need PPE.

“I’m proud of the way our team has leveraged both our expertise … as well as our execution platform whether it be our technology or relationships we’ve had to drive home the results that were needed,” Biesterfeld said.