DHL is one of the leading providers of pharmaceutical warehouses and transport in the UK. It acts as our main warehousing provider, receiving pallets of donated medicines and medical supplies from the pharmaceutical companies who support us.

We have worked with (what is now) DHL since 2007. It provides us with free warehousing at its Banbury site, along with a dedicated team to manage donations. When pallets arrive, the DHL team sorts through them, breaks them down, divides batches and/or products to make up individual pallets and puts these in the warehouse. 

Our partnership with DHL enables us to send out between one and three shipments each week, by truck, and then by air and sea. Shipments vary in size, from the small (an Essential Health Pack weighing 24 to 30 kilograms) to the large (a 40ft container).  

In order to receive medicines from the pharmaceutical industry, we need to hold the same license as wholesalers within the industry; and our warehousing, transport and processes must all adhere to good distribution practice. Because DHL already provides warehousing within the supply chain for many pharmaceutical companies, it can help us to ensure that the medicines we are sending overseas are stored in the correct manner. The industry refers to this as “remaining within the pharmaceutical supply chain”. 

Over the years, we’ve built a close partnership with DHL. It takes a keen interest in our work, and its ongoing support and reliability helps to underpin our operations.

We accept and bring products in only when they are requested by an NGO, or for packing into Essential Health Packs. Typically, stock arriving for a shipment to an NGO partner will be in the warehouse for less than a month.

Stocks for Essential Health Packs will be stored for longer, as we often bring in sufficient stock to make up several packs. This helps to ensure we will be ready to respond in the event of a disaster.

The first step in delivering an order to an NGO partner is to notify the warehouse of what’s needed. The DHL team then picks those items from different locations within the warehouse and loads them onto pallets.

We will specify whether stock is to be sent as airfreight, in sea containers or by truck, so that the team knows how high to build the pallets in order to maximise the available space. Airfreight pallets, for example, are built smaller than pallets that travel by container or truck, because the hold of an aircraft is not as high. We send about 70% of our shipments by either air or truck, with the remainder by sea container.

The DHL team also weighs and measures pallets, so that we (and the receiving NGO) can arrange appropriate ongoing transport when the products arrive. At the end of the process, the team loads medicines into containers and onto trucks, all ready to go.  

When we respond to a disaster or crisis, the DHL team makes our shipments a priority. They often give up their breaks or put in extra hours to get the shipments ready, enabling us to respond to emergencies as soon as possible. DHL does all of this for free, making an enormous difference to people who lack access to medicine.