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UK Carrier Consortium delivers COVID-19 tests but opens Pandora’s Box

By Chris Dawson July 2, 2020 - 11:17 am

Some of the biggest rivals in the UK parcel industry have pooled their resources and expertise, in a new UK Carrier Consortium, to manage the nationwide collection and delivery of Covid-19 home testing kits into testing laboratories.

The test collection programme feeds into a study coordinated by Ipsos MORI in partnership with Imperial College London for The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to assist in understanding the prevalence of the virus across England.

“The Consortium has been a fantastic partner to Ipsos MORI, Imperial College and DHSC. With a solutions-focused, innovative team at the helm they have rapidly ensured delivery of what is a new and incredibly challenging logistics process at scale.”
– Kelly Beaver, Managing Director, Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI

Created by Warrington-based The Delivery Group, The UK Carrier Consortium includes rivals such as Yodel, Menzies Distribution, DX, Diamond and UPS Healthcare. The carrier industry is normally a highly competitive industry and it’s an industry first to see these businesses working together to provide access to over 10,000 vehicles, 200 facilities and a combined workforce in excess of 16,000 employees.

“Our Consortium members and service suppliers have reacted magnificently and achieved the impossible, creating a new UK service from scratch and against the clock. Together, we will continue to improve processes and create an even better consumer experience as we progress through the next phases.”
– James Wilkins, Operations and IT Director, The Delivery Group

The UK Carrier Consortium is operating seven days per week on a massive scale across England, delivering a strictly controlled cool chain solution which ensures the temperature of the tests remains constant from pick-up to delivery.

The Delivery Group manages the operation, allocating home collections, bulk consolidation and timed delivery into the testing laboratories for analysis. Additionally, The Delivery Group has created a booking website, developed with technology partner Mosaic Online Systems, and a dedicated telephone helpline centre at Warrington. Recipients can book their test collection slot online or over the phone using a unique URL.

“It’s been an honour to work with industry peers on what is a critical task for the country, and we look forward to undertaking the next phase of the programme. We have opened up the Yodel network at weekends to further support the collection infrastructure and our staff across the board have delivered a truly excellent service.”
– Mike Hancox, CEO, Yodel

UK Carrier Consortium opens Pandora’s Box

It’s encouraging to see carriers come together to support the country in a time of crisis, but they could inadvertently created a rod for their own back by demonstrating the ability to collaborate. The government has published a Position Statement on Last Mile Logistics and carrier collaboration is one of their ideas. (We’ve already written about potential mandatory delivery charges spelling an end to free delivery).

“Some of the transport impacts of ecommerce could be addressed by: the physical internet concept, which aims to improve asset utilization in transport and logistics such as vans, trucks, and rail but also in warehouses, distribution hubs and other logistic resources and can be implemented in a last mile logistics scenario. The idle capacity of assets could be better used if they could be opened and made easily available for all of the stakeholders in the logistics chain, overcoming sector fragmentation, connecting logistics services and networks seamlessly. Freight transport and logistics services could be interconnected allowing a more flexible use of the resources, cargo consolidation and routing, in other words, creating a physical internet. This is still quite a new concept and the commercial difficulties are still to be resolved.”
– Department for Transport Position statement on last mile logistics

The problem that will face carriers is how to differentiate their services if perhaps some other courier gets assigned to carry out the last mile delivery to the consumer. There’s little point creating quality of service, inflight delivery options, robust tracking with a count down time to the actual delivery and then a third party finishing the job with none of these services.

Now the UK Carrier Consortium has proven it’s possible for carriers to work together in an emergency, we may be one step closer to it becoming a reality in future more normal times. This would leave businesses sending parcels not knowing which carrier will deliver their outgoing parcels and so the temptation will be to accept the lowest possible cost collection proposal – if you can’t choose the customer experience why would you pay for a superior service?

  • 1 month ago

    Interesting points and here is our 1st hand experience of this collaboration. My wife was asked to participate and duly accepted.

    Advised “HAVE TO”

    Book the carrier to get a collection date.

    Do the test before 8am on the advised date so that the carrier can collect between 8am and 4pm They do advise the expected time slot.

    Keep the samples in the fridge ready for collection.

    So all done 🙂

    Are we advised of updated collection time? No

    Supposed to be 11:15 am now 3:30pm we call the service. “he is out again and will collect shortly.”

    Next day! New time advised 8:00am to 11:am

    Young lad arrives at 10am to collect the 36hr old sample in a private car. This is a cold supply chain?

    So this system is great and really working and we should be proud! Accepting all the logistical nightmares, in our example, things are not running according to plan and we do not even know if a sample that old is any good.

    Has any body else had any issues?

    Pandora is gonna love this box.

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