Health Service Focus

18.05.20

Diversifying to meet a demand: One business' response to PPE shortages

As Covid-19 demands innovation from all businesses, Matt Parker looked to diversify his Beyondsome brand to support the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) which had been struggling with supply chain challenges during the outbreak. He spoke with NHE’s Matt Roberts about his efforts.

Unlikely sources, unprecedented commonality and commitment. Those have been the positives we’ve seen blossom out of the coronavirus pandemic, as people from across the country and all walks of life come together to support one another, address supply and demand needs and collectively guide us through these toughest of times.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) was a term only really known to those in industry before the Covid-19 outbreak, but as traditional supply chains were put under strain and shortages were forecast and emerged, it entered the public vernacular. Yet, in that struggle also came innovation and this aforementioned response.

Matt Parker was just one such businessman who saw the situation developing and, with friends and family on those front lines fighting the virus, opted to step in to help avoid the dangers of a supply issue. With expertise in ecommerce and supplies, and existing facilities capable of receiving and shipping garments, there was an opportunity to adapt under the current climate and play a part in the national response.

But, even more than that, there was a “moral obligation” as Matt explained to us.

That wasn’t to say the transition was as simple as flicking a switch. In order to switch across to the field of PPE provision, it has relied on Matt turning to his own assets to finance the shift but he remains as determined as ever to the work they have done. Self-employed, running an SME business out of Greater Manchester, quite simply coronavirus required his company to “diversify or die” and he was committed to protecting his and his staff’s livelihoods.

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With expertise in ecommerce and supplies, and existing facilities capable of receiving and shipping garments, there was an opportunity to adapt under the current climate and play a part in the national response.
 

Loyalty to his staff was rewarded too. As Matt tells us: “I explained to [my staff] what I was going to do and they all said ‘we’ll support you’ which was brilliant to have my staff behind me.”

All that remained was that final hurdle, at which so many well-intentioned companies during coronavirus have stumbled: turning the idea into a reality. Importing from overseas was the idea, but as Matt explains to us, that meant establishing a reliable, transparent supply chain to ensure regular, high quality products could be received.

While here in the West the wearing of a mask is a concept to which we are relatively unaccustomed, it is far more socially accepted elsewhere and as such there already exists manufacturing capacity to produce the products at a greater scale. The key aspect for Matt and his company, however, was to find an accredited mask.

Matt explained: “I had to do two months of work in regards to the medicinal properties and tests involved with these masks to ensure I was going down the right route and eventually I found the right ones and got a supply chain established.

“We’ve managed to get an accredited supply chain, with an accredited KN95 mask that is FDA approved and [of an FFP2-standard quality.]”

READ MORE: Health Foundation: Care homes remain on the front line in the fight

READ MORE: Business partnerships create millions more items of PPE for frontline staff

Working through his brand Beyondsome, Matt has been able to meet a demand for PPE masks both for commercial sale and, most significantly, to donate to social care facilities where those on the front lines most need the supplies. While many fellow companies look to establish similar supply chains now to help address the need, through his own resources, hard work and commitment they already have the necessary foundations in place. 

As Matt openly admits, there has been and always will be the naysayers who suggest that all of the stock received should be donated but balance is often the key in business. An SME company with overheads and staff to pay, a bottom line has to be met to ensure the vital supply chain Matt has worked to establish over these last few months can remain steady and reliable to provide these products, with proceeds then going towards donations to support frontline staff, who have undoubtedly benefited from the work Matt and Beyondsome have done.

It’s taken a driven attitude and an openness to adapt and learn across the board – everything from socially distancing staff in the warehouse to understanding the nuances of express air freight having previously used more traditional sea freight methods – but he hasn’t been alone on the endeavour. As Matt told us: “there are so many people who have helped on this journey, working to help others and that is fantastic to see. The whole experience has been a rollercoaster to say the least.”

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Working through his brand Beyondsome, Matt has been able to meet a demand for PPE masks both for commercial sale and, most significantly, to donate to social care facilities where those on the front lines most need the supplies.
 

In particular, Matt offered his thanks for the invaluable advice and support he’d received from George Meressa of Clear Ads, who helped him gain traction for the cause through various outlets, and Carmel Harrison at DSV Air & Sea for her assistance navigating the sometimes testing and awkward circumstances caused as the global trade logistics network negotiates restrictions and delays due to Covid-19. Others to mention who provided inspiration and support during Matt’s journey include ecommerce entrepreneur Danny McMillan, European Seller Conference organiser Augustas Kligys and North West-based print company Shanleys who helped facilitate the packaging of products in such a difficult time.

Matt and Beyondsome are not unique as a company diversifying its efforts to support the new demands of Covid-19, but rather one of a wealth of people up and down the country who have answered the call to innovate where they can.

Beyondsome’s products can be seen at www.beyondsome.co.uk/protectUK alongside photographs of some of the frontline workers who have been supported and protected thanks to the supply chain Matt, his company and his partners have worked to establish.

Additionally, businesses wishing to enquire or purchase high volumes of PPE can do so at www.protectionppe.co.uk through their trade site Beyondsome Supplies.

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