Since last fall, the sauces, breakfast cereals, and beverages manufactured by Kraft Heinz have been making their way from AG Logistics’ brand-new distribution center in Ede to retailers across the entire Benelux region.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon. We receive a call from the National Consortium for Medical Devices, based in Den Haag. They’re urgently looking for large-scale packaging services. And not only do they need these services “yesterday,” they want the reassurance that the packaging operations comply with the strictest quality and hygiene guidelines. “Can you handle this sort of thing?”, they ask us. Six days later, we’ve massively upscaled our Personal Care division, to the point where we can now deliver tens of thousands of kits a week.
It’s May 2020, and we’re in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic. The National Consortium for Medical Devices (Landelijk Consortium Hulpmiddelen / LCH) was established for the purpose of purchasing personal medical devices and protective equipment (including face masks, disposable gloves and disposable medical aprons) as quickly and efficiently as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Consortium is firing on all cylinders to provide healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities with these supplies, as well as organizing emergency kits and standard kits for informal caregivers. Due to the urgency of the situation, speed of service is essential, but there are also stringent quality and hygiene standards to comply with.
The products used to produce the kits are supplied by companies located throughout the Netherlands. There’s also a huge diversity of supply: for example, some types of protective glasses come in boxes of 10, others in boxes of 100. It’s a massive logistics operation, one that not only must succeed under huge pressure, but must actually be up and running within one week. “Are you sure you’re up to the job?”, our contacts in The Hague ask us again.
“Sure, no problem,” is our answer, knowing full well we’re going to have to give it our all, since a job of this scale would be impossible during “normal” times. But if there’s anything that gets our and our partners’ juices flowing, it’s a good challenge.
So after receiving the call on Wednesday, we start collecting samples all over the country on Thursday, as well as making calculations and getting started on the packaging design. By Friday, we have the samples ready to be shipped to the Consortium for approval. The phone never stops ringing all weekend, and in between answering calls we design the instruction leaflet to be included in each kit. On Monday we process the project in our systems and have the leaflets printed. By Tuesday – just six days after that initial phone call – our Personal Care division is ready for action, backed by a team of dozens of temporary workers recruited in record time by our sister company Crown Uitzendbureau, a provider of temporary staffing services.
We’re producing tens of thousands of kits a week right off the bat, and we’ll continue to do so even many months later.
"Can you handle this sort of thing?”
Sure, no problem,is our answer.
This is Personal Care at the very highest level
We’ve always known we’re good at thinking on our feet, but we can honestly say we outdid ourselves in getting this challenging project off the ground. Every division involved – from Sales to Production and from Quality Assurance to Admin – went into overdrive to deliver the right combination of speed and high quality.
We should also give credit to our partners in this project: Bannink, which supplied the corrugated board; Perqa for their ultrafast printing; and the National Consortium for Medical Devices itself, of course. While we may sometimes like to grumble about government services, what the Consortium managed to get done in such a short space of time – while simultaneously juggling numerous similar projects, no less – was nothing short of spectacular.
Sure, it was a time of unprecedented crisis, and we’ve all felt – and continue to feel – the impact of the pandemic, but one thing we’ve learned is just how much we can accomplish when we all work together, trust each other, and give everyone the freedom to do what they do best. It’s the only way you can produce tens of thousands of aid kits within the space of a week... This is Personal care, at the very highest level.
Photography: Ministerie van VWS
Ben Kleisterlee (Mars) talks about the Vetipak factory in Veghel.
“Where on earth have I ended up?” A bemused Rob van der Wijst takes a look around the production facility, a compact space where three machines are installed. Or, more precisely, two and a half machines, as the flow packer he’s been hired to operate is not working properly, and there are parts of the machine lying around everywhere.