About the organisation
DHL Supply Chain is the UK’s largest logistics company, part of the DPDHL Group. With about 380,000 employees in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide, DHL connects people and businesses securely and reliably, enabling global trade flows.
What challenges were you trying to address?
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was felt in almost every business supply chain, as increased consumer demand put pressure on some sectors, and shutdowns affected others. While those initial shockwaves were extreme, supply chain volatility is an ongoing challenge and one we've learned to manage over the years. However, what was particularly unique in this case was the sudden need to establish new supply chains to serve a variety of different functions, including supporting the production of new ventilators, and giving shuttered shops a chance of survival with new ecommerce channels.
What goals or outcomes did you want/need to achieve?
While some industries were pausing operations, others needed to quickly pivot and even establish completely new supply chains. These projects would normally take several months to set up, but the urgency of them meant that we had to find a way to bypass the normal process and get them up and running in a matter of days.
What was your solution?
Our solution to this challenge was quite simple, but relied on the whole business pulling together to work across divisions in a way we might not have done in the course of day-to-day business. We adapted existing infrastructure to make use of our facilities, and redeployed colleagues from other areas of the business.
How did you roll out your approach?
Central to the roll-out of our approach were our data visualisation systems, which allowed us to quickly see which areas of the business were experiencing ups and downs in terms of availability and resource, and move that capacity across to the new supply chains.
This led to an extensive redeployment programme, through which 1,400 people were able to migrate from areas where work had slowed, to sectors with increased demand. For example, colleagues previously working in our manufacturing operations were redeployed to support the delivery of the Nightingale field hospitals.
Data visualisation allowed us to assess available infrastructure and put this to good use, such as the creation of ecommerce pop-up fulfilment operations in existing retail space. This became an invaluable resource for businesses without established ecommerce supply chains who found themselves with no other means of trading.
Collaboration is often talked about within the industry, but the pandemic response truly saw it put into action to great effect. Our work as part of the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium saw businesses come together for the greater good, breaking down traditional barriers to stand up a new supply chain and manufacture much needed ventilators. Likewise, one of the keys to success of each project was having a constant feedback loop and regular communication with both the customer and partners. It has proven the importance of working together and regularly connecting with stakeholders to consistently improve, rather than waiting for monthly or quarterly reviews.
What have the results been?
The last few months have seen a number of brand-new supply chains set up from scratch, allowing us to deliver on incredibly important projects like the VentillatorChallengeUK.
Our pop-up ecommerce fulfilment offer, initially implemented for Holland & Barrett but now available to other customers, was set up in just 48 hours to be able to handle up to 10,000 orders from day one of being operational.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to do something similar?
First and foremost, our success here was about visibility and awareness. Having a strong central function, with real oversight and real-time data, meant we were able to respond to every challenge as our understanding of the pandemic evolved.
Secondly, collaboration and communication is key. Whether within your own business, or across industry divisions, in times of extraordinary challenge it’s important to break down silos to achieve common goals. Regularly reviewing progress against clearly defined goals makes this kind of collaboration incredibly productive for the long term.
Finally, regular and rigorous internal communication will allow you to make quick changes to your business, which may be unfamiliar to everyone involved, but ultimately with the ambition of creating new solutions. Clear and confident communication with your employees will mean that you’re able to bring them along with you on the journey – even if it’s unchartered territory, as the COVID-19 pandemic has been.