Case Study: What Contract Packing Over 3 Million COVID-19 Testing Kits Looks Like

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Contract Packing 150,000 COVID-kits in a Week Requires Rigorous Quality Assurance Processes

Spring 2020 saw a fast-changing world for everyone as COVID-19 forced adjustments in behaviour that had never been seen before. Here at Finishing Line that meant a new client, a new vertical market and a high-pressure project. But if there’s a project that proves our adaptability and commitment, it’s successfully contract packing 180,000 COVID-19 testing kits a week for the UK Government’s REACT study.

In close collaboration with our client Formara, over the past 18 months we have provided the assembly, storage and eventual fulfilment of over 3 million COVID-19 Antibody and Antigen testing kits for the Data Science company, Ipsos Mori on behalf of Imperial College London and The Department of Health.

Quality of service is vital

As the clinicians battled to gain an understanding of the virus and behaviour patterns, there was no room for error when assembling the COVID-19 antibody and antigen testing kits.

 

Each of the items contained in the kits is essential, so missing elements would mean that kit could not be used by the recipient.  A number of factors at the core of our contract packing service ensured that the research study was not impacted by incomplete kits being sent out.

 

A key step in our quality assurance process was weighing the items being dispatched. An incredibly simple solution, but also very effective. Knowing the expected weight of the individual items plus the correctly assembled and packed items meant that, prior to dispatch, any errors could be picked up and corrected.

Not only was there a need for attention to detail in packing, but also in labelling. Personal data was being handled continuously and, as a result of Formara’s ISO 27001 and our Cyber Essentials Plus certifications, strict processes needed to be followed to ensure we were holding data securely.

 

Formara provided barcodes which needed to be matched to the address label to avoid errors. A number of safeguards were put in place to ensure accurate matching and despite the high volumes of packages despatched, not one was sent to the wrong recipient.

 

Having teams of dextrous and experienced contract packers reduces the potential for error, and increases the speed of processing. With a workforce that has been with us for a number of years, we know who is well-suited to particular jobs and these teams are then committed to the project for its duration. This builds muscle-memory which, in turn, further reduces the likelihood of mistakes and, with a commitment to learning and adapting throughout the lifetime of every project, also improves completion times as we strive to find even more efficient and secure ways to pack.

Packing process

COVID-19 Antigen Testing Kit

Items required:

Specimen bag, swab, Security seal – which was placed in zip lock bag, letter, instructions, sticker sheet and box

Actions:

• Pack 7 items into jiffy bag and seal

• Attach address label to front exactly as sample.

 
COVID-19 Antibody Testing Kit

Items required:

3 leaflets, 1 personalised letter & 1 antibody test

Actions:

• Peel address off letter provided

• Then insert 5 items into jiffy, peel and seal envelope.

 

When evidence matters

Every worker is attributed a unique ID number for their labelling. This means that each individual packed item can be tracked back to its packer in the event of any queries. This came in useful when there was a possibility of test kit contamination, which we were quickly able to prove did not occur during Finishing Line’s handling of the kits.

 

The kit number was traced to a worker, and the date and time of packing was then identified. As the packing lines are monitored by constant CCTV, we were able to review the footage to prove that the kit had been packed and dispatched uncontaminated. It was subsequently uncovered that this was factually incorrect and was a discrepancy in reporting. Fortunately, we had the processes in place to ensure that an investigation could be conducted and the matter resolved.

Supporting the country’s effort

Andy Mead, Managing Director, Finishing Line, knows that this project has meant more to the staff than simply fulfilling their contract packing commitments. He commented, “We take pride in providing high quality picking, packing and distribution for all clients, but it definitely has an added layer of satisfaction when you know that you’ve done something to contribute to a massive national effort. Ensuring that more than 3 million testing kits were sent complete and correct is something that the team can rightly take great satisfaction in”.

 

The volume of packs varied throughout the project, with some weeks requiring us to bulk pack up to 180,000 kits. This ensured that Ipsos Mori could be confident in always having 150,000 testing kits ready for dispatch each month.

 

Gary Welch, Research Director of Ipsos Mori, had this to say about our role in the project, “The Finishing Line was instrumental in ensuring that we were able to distribute over 150,000 testing kits every month throughout England as part of the Government’s COVID-19 REACT study. Their knowledge and experience in contract packing solutions provided us with the utmost confidence that this important job was in safe hands”.

 

Tackling high volume projects like this is made simpler as a result of our investment in our bespoke cloud-based management system, Tenevo. This gives our clients access to real-time data on inventory levels and order fulfilment as well as ensuring data security is maintained.  

The project started in April 2020 and is still ongoing.

The skills that Finishing Line has in contract packing can be adapted for all number of supply chains. We also provide services for eCommerce order fulfilment, returns management and warehouse management. Our 34 years’ experience, coupled with our innovative approach and customer commitment, means that if you have a project in mind that you would like advice on or a quote for, we’ll be sure to be able to deliver the right solution. 

 

Please get in touch or call us on +44 (0)1268 498 950

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