Customer Story

Savoir Faire Ensemble: Building the fabric of COVID-19 protection with Google Workspace

Savoir Faire Ensemble helps overcome the shortage of protective gear during COVID-19, delivering more than 100 million masks and gowns by connecting 1,400+ textile businesses via Google Workspace.

Google Cloud Results

90M masks and 12M gowns sourced via Google Sheets

• Mobilizes businesses via Google Workspace to produce 6.2M masks daily (at peak production) during COVID-19
• Supports the French textile industry by compiling 6,500+ orders for 1,400+ businesses with Google Sheets
• Provides customers with high-quality, government-vetted products by building the country’s largest collaborative effort for protective clothing
• Strengthens remote teamwork with easy-to-use collaboration tools, including Google Drive, Gmail, Google Meet, and Google Calendar
• Enables an operational team of only four people to effectively manage and connect 1,000+ customers and suppliers

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there wasn’t a lot of time to prepare for the new normal. Businesses quickly closed, employees moved into their home offices, and entire countries imposed curfews to slow down the spread of the virus. In the same short time, people all over the world came up with innovative ways to contain the virus, or help us live with it. In Senegal, students built an app-controlled robot to lower the risk of contamination from patients to caregivers. In Germany, one COVID-19 hackathon alone delivered more than 1,500 projects. In the midst of difficulty, the pandemic has been a catalyst for innovation, inspiring people and entire industries to come together, joining forces for a greater good.

In France, the fashion industry and the country’s greater wellbeing have always been closely linked. With more than €154 billion in revenue, its share of French GDP traditionally outweighs even the automotive and airline sectors, with an influence that stretches from the busy streets of Paris to the seaside boulevards of the Côte d’Azur. Like most industries, fashion has been impacted by the pandemic. But while the world’s fashion capital was compelled to close its catwalks and boutiques in early 2020, those in the textile industry found a new and just as important way to support the country.

“There was a real shortage of masks, surgical gowns, and other protective items,” says Madeleine Cusinberche, General Secretary of Savoir Faire Ensemble, an association of more than 1,400 French companies in the French textile industry. “To combat the spread of the virus and help companies maintain revenue streams and employment in these difficult times, we decided to unite the French textile industry under a single banner. That’s why we founded Savoir Faire Ensemble.”

Created under the guidance of the French Ministry of the Economy and Finance, as well as the Strategic Committee of the Fashion Sector, Savoir Faire Ensemble, which translates to ‘knowing what to do together’, is a network that brings together tailors, material manufacturers, and suppliers. It coordinates this national network to standardize and increase the production of protective equipment, such as masks and isolation gowns.

Using a simple shared document, the project collects orders from individuals, companies, hospitals, or communities, and enables participating industry partners to distribute these orders among themselves. This simplifies the search for much-needed protective gear while offering French businesses a chance to use their capacities effectively during economic hardship.

Bringing teamwork in fashion with Google Workspace

“To bring this project to life, we mobilized more than 1,400 companies, many of which weren’t very digitally mature. Google Workspace gave us the collaborative tools we needed, wrapped in the most easy-to-use interface.” -- Madeleine Cusinberche, General Secretary, Savoir Faire Ensemble

What seems simple is in fact the result of robust planning by the Savoir Faire Ensemble team. In the middle of a public health crisis, it needed to build a secure way to collaborate, under tremendous time constraints, and it had to be intuitive for users of all technological backgrounds. “To bring this project to life, we mobilized more than 1,400 companies, many of which weren’t very digitally mature,” says Madeleine. "Google Workspace gave us the collaborative tools we needed, wrapped in the most easy-to-use interface.”

With the health of the country at stake, availability was a major concern. “We had many users right from the start, so we needed a reliable cloud solution that could handle the load,” says Madeleine. “With uptimes of near 100%, as well as 24/7 support, Google Workspace met all of our requirements.”

Due to the project’s importance for public health and the French economy, Google provided Savoir Faire Ensemble with free access to all Google Workspace applications. “Building this service from the ground up was a huge challenge, but Google Workspace offered the easiest, more efficient way to make it happen,” says Madeleine. “Beyond sponsoring our mission with free access, Google offered technical support, helping our team use the Google Workspace applications to their fullest potential.

Sourcing 90 million masks through Google Sheets

“Google Sheets is at the center of Savoir Faire Ensemble and accessed daily by hundreds of businesses. It enabled us to quickly source 90 million masks and 12 million gowns, helping France overcome the shortage.” -- Madeleine Cusinberche, General Secretary, Savoir Faire Ensemble

Before Savoir Faire could connect French textile professionals with customers who needed masks and gowns, the team needed to gauge interest in the project. In March 2020, it gathered information from potential partners and customers with a simple questionnaire on Google Forms, generating a resounding response.

Having established the need for a centralized service to coordinate orders, the team set up an intuitive service to help textile businesses and ordering parties connect autonomously. “First, we created Google Workspace accounts for more than 1,000 users from the participating businesses,” says Madeleine. “Many people were already familiar with Google Workspace, and the rest were able to catch up quickly because the tools are incredibly easy to use.”

At the heart of the service is a shared Google Drive, where Google Sheets serves as the main database for purchase orders of masks and gowns. Every order that comes in through the website is transmitted to Google Sheets automatically. With all data available to all users at all times, manufacturers and suppliers can respond to orders from the website in real time.

“Google Sheets is at the center of Savoir Faire Ensemble and accessed by hundreds of businesses every day,” says Madeleine. “It enabled us to quickly source 90 million masks and 12 million gowns, helping France overcome the shortage.”

Access to a unified service for orders helps manufacturers analyze the demand for COVID-19 related products, enabling them to set profitable prices and identify production and supply bottlenecks. “In many ways, we’re in uncharted territory, and businesses are still trying to understand the market impact of COVID-19,” says Madeleine. “The data we’re gathering with Google Workspace lets businesses know the demand they need to meet, and through strategic decisions at a critical time, face that demand with confidence.”

Protecting people and the local economy

Especially during the critical early stages of the pandemic, the demand for masks and gowns was higher than the supply. Many people, organizations, and even hospitals had to scour the internet for undiscovered reserves, or import products from other countries. This raised concerns about the quality of the products or the working conditions involved in their production.

Savoir Faire Ensemble streamlined the search for masks and gowns made in France. Under the surveillance of governmental authorities, the filtration capacity of the products sold by members of the consortium has been tested by specialized laboratories. By shopping at Savoir Faire Ensemble, customers have a direct line to the country’s largest source of high-quality protective gear, while supporting the local economy.

“When the pandemic hit, it was difficult to obtain high-quality and sustainable masks and gowns quickly,” says Madeleine. “By bringing together 1,400 businesses with Google Workspace, we’ve managed to build a daily production capacity that peaked at 6.2 million masks, giving people across France reliable access to protective clothing.”

Unmasking the future of cloud collaboration

“Google Workspace enabled us to build the largest textile consortium in France. By providing more than 100 million masks and gowns to people that desperately needed them, we managed to make a real difference.” -- Madeleine Cusinberche, General Secretary, Savoir Faire Ensemble

To keep the masks moving and the virus contained, the team worked tirelessly behind the scenes, bringing new businesses into the network and increasing production capacity. By using Google Workspace for all internal communications, the Savoir Faire Ensemble team managed to build a collaborative environment from its home offices.

“We have daily meetings on Google Meet, communicate internally and externally with Gmail, set appointments on Google Calendar, and store all our files on Google Drive,” says Madeleine. “All these Google Workspace tools are so well-designed that our team were able to hit the ground running, with barely any training.”

The ability to link Google Workspace applications to other software as a service (SaaS) solutions further enhanced the team’s productivity. “Savoir Faire Ensemble is still a fairly new organization, so lots of people have questions about the service,” says Madeleine. “At the time, we automated the management of support tickets by integrating Zendesk with Google Workspace, which made it much easier for us to respond to queries.”

Savoir Faire Ensemble was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. But like the power of human creativity, it will far outlive this virus. Having proven how entire industries can come together in the face of hardship, Madeleine and her team want to expand the scope of the project and use Savoir Faire Ensemble as a model for future initiatives to promote local production.

“Google Workspace enabled us to build the largest textile consortium in France,” says Madeleine. “By providing more than 100 million masks and gowns to people that desperately needed them, we managed to make a real difference. And with the technology in place, we’re ready to repeat this success in the future.”

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.