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DHL supported the delivery of 100,000 face masks for the 'Masks for NHS Heroes' campaign (image from DHL)

Ensuring essential supplies get where they’re needed

We often think of transport workers as being the backbone of Britain, but in the current crisis many organisations are supporting in more ways than you might expect.

Alumnus Ian Clough, Managing Director Network Logistics and Transport at DHL Supply Chain, is in charge of distribution for many supermarkets, running patient transport for the NHS in North London, and moving ventilators (and their component parts) for Formula One teams amongst others.

In addition he led transportation of 100,000 face masks into the UK as part of the 'Masks for NHS Heroes' campaign.

Ian said: “The team approached us about helping to distribute the supplies around the UK, and also the international Express team about transporting goods into the UK. The doctors were very knowledgeable and passionate about what they were doing and we had the logistics expertise and were in a position to help, so we got involved.

“So far we have distributed three sets of deliveries and are expecting more in the next few weeks. It feels great to know you’re helping to make a difference.”

Ian and DHL have been supporting the NHS in other ways too. For example through providing logistical support for the new Nightingale Hospitals and converting warehouse space into specific storage facilities, plus adapting some existing patient transport vehicles so that they can move COVID patients in the capital. His division have also been producing COVID-19 testing kits going from 1,000 per day to 16,000 per day in a few weeks.

He said: “We have capacity to produce 20,000 tests per day but at the moment, along with other manufacturers, we are struggling to get all the component parts. We are then shipping them directly to the Department of Health for them to distribute where most needed.

“We’re also supporting companies, including Formula One teams, making ventilators by making sure they get all the different parts they need and now starting to move the finished products for testing. We’ve been able to help in lots of different ways because we are such a large organisation – the DHL UK team is around 40,000 people – and can move quickly. Also some sections of our business, such as those working for car manufacturers and airports, are quiet so we’ve been able to redeploy staff to busier areas or new logistics needs.”

Supermarkets, which form a key part of Ian’s business, have been particularly busy and his team have had to set-up additional transport hubs to help keep stock on the shelves. Even now that panic-buying has died down, supermarkets are still selling more because customers do not have the option of eating out, and all workers involved are very busy.

Ian said: “I love this role because it is so varied. I started work at DHL around 30 years ago in a finance job following my Accounting degree, but since then I’ve moved between six different countries and multiple divisions. In my current role no day is the same, and that’s particularly true now. It’s very busy but knowing I am doing positive work makes it more rewarding.”

Date: 29 April 2020

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