It felt like bringing a knife to a gunfight. As the coronavirus hit The Netherlands early March, healthcare workers throughout the entire country lacked personal protective equipment (PPE) and were at risk of exposing themselves to contamination. At the same time another – more literal – fight took place as governments and healthcare institutions scrambled to the global market to buy as many PPEs as they could, outbidding and outfoxing each other in the process.
Shady middlemen, PPEs not up to par and prices that doubled, tripled or quadrupled in a matter of days; these were just some of the challenges to be overcome by anyone trying to buy personal protective equipment in those first chaotic weeks. In order to carry more influence on the international market, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports (VWS) together with a group of professionals from (academic) hospitals, suppliers and producers set up the Landelijk Consortium Hulpmiddelen (LCH), a consortium tasked with buying sufficient PPEs for all healthcare workers in The Netherlands.
As of late June, the LCH has purchased around two billion PPEs, ranging from surgical masks to hand sanitiser to testing kits. Over 155 million units have been delivered, with the rest of the PPEs set to arrive in the second half of the year. At its peak 10.000 m3 of freight arrives per week, or around 150 large containers, via planes (22 flights per week), trains and cargo ships from East and Southeast Asia. In the Netherlands Royal Auping and DSM are producing personal protective equipment.
From Excel files to Power BI
Setting up this giant logistics operation, of course, brought with it numerous challenges. One of those was to create a clear and real-time overview of all PPEs purchased and distributed by the LCH.
Initially all this information was kept in Excel files, but because of the scale of the operation and the large number of people and stakeholders involved it soon became clear the LCH needed a more sophisticated system, and that is where VIQTOR DAVIS and Delta-N came in.
To make sure all logistics data was up-to-date, VIQTOR DAVIS and Delta-N developed a new Microsoft Azure data platform. Delta-N created the infrastructure and developed the necessary Power App, while VIQTOR DAVIS was responsible for onboarding and transforming the data, reporting and dashboarding. These reports and dashboards have since been used to update the LCH and the Ministry of VWS.
It now is possible for all people concerned to have clear and single overview of all the data regarding the purchasing and distribution of PPEs. Whether it is the total amount ordered or delivered, the distribution of PPEs so far, as a bulk or specifically for gloves or face masks or protective coats, everything is easily accessible and understandable, making it much easier for the LCH to act data-driven.
“The presentation and reporting of all the data changed from flip charts full of post-it notes to real-time dashboards within a week of us starting work here,” says Roy Thomassen, lead consultant at VIQTOR DAVIS. “That first week we got an standing ovation from the people at both the LCH and the Ministry of VWS, which was a great feeling. Ever since, we have been connecting more departments to the data platform.”
Since the 3rd of June, the LCH has been operating under code green, meaning there is sufficient supply of PPEs, even if the virus would flare up again. VIQTOR DAVIS is currently developing Power BI reports for the supply chain and the planning models.
Together with colleagues of VIQTOR DAVIS we have been working fulltime on the project. Thomassen: “It has been very special and an honor to contribute here, but it wasn’t exactly a nine-to-five job. The whole team has really surpassed themselves and I really enjoyed the vibe. But I’m also glad we’re going back to eight hours a day rhythm again.”
We would sincerely like to thank the people and partners of LCH for the cooperation during this special assignment.