Logistics has been front and centre during the pandemic to get essential products delivered.
Although most shops, restaurants and factories were closed, services such as hospitals and grocers continued to serve the nation and needed to be supplied.
That need is not to going to go away, as industry predictions are for amounts of PPE supplied to rocket over the next decade.
Overall, the pandemic is expected to drive the size of the global healthcare PPE market to US$33.4bn by 2027, or more than double last year’s US$12.9bn, according to a recent report by Allied Market Research.
That growth might be hindered by concerns about the environmental impact, although there may be new opportunities for biomaterials.
Big changes have already been made in the way the UK delivery process works, partly in response to problems and fierce criticism over the lack of PPE available for front line staff at the start of the crisis.
Last month, the UK government announced that 2bn items of PPE – 341mln masks, 313mln aprons, 4mln gowns and 1.1bn gloves – had been delivered to NHS and social care staff across England since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Almost 28bn items have been ordered to provide a continuous supply to healthcare and social care staff.
At the onset of the crisis, the supply chain for PPE was designed to accommodate deliveries to 226 NHS trusts, but the government set up new systems weeks after the lockdown was announced.
The logistics sector was brought together with the armed forces and the healthcare system to create a new PPE distribution network to deliver critical supplies to key workers.
The plan prioritised the so-called local resilience forums, or multi-agency partnerships made up of representatives from local public services such as hospitals, councils and police, in charge of assigning the equipment to those most in needs in their area.
As well as importing material, the government encouraged UK-based industries to switch their production to PPE.
However, the National Audit Office revealed earlier in June that officials had failed to stockpile PPE despite warnings to do so, so frontline workers received less than half of items that were needed at the start of the crisis.
England, for example, only had enough equipment in anticipation of a flu pandemic, though lacked the crucial gowns or visors, against previous recommendations.
“The problem with PPE has been the procurement and supply, the shortage was not planned for,” Peter Ward, chief executive of distribution trade body UKWA, told Proactive.
“I think the logistics industry has more than adequately managed to distribute PPE once it was available.
“With the closure of hospitality and non-essential retail, a lot of logistics companies have had reduced activity.
“They have been able to look after those essential supplies that have been needed.”
It was initially awarded a contract to establish a new PPE supply chain, including setting up a full management system for over 200,000 square feet of warehousing space.
Clipper also developed an online portal in collaboration with the NHS Supply Chain, the Ministry of Defence and eBay.
The platform allows GP surgeries, small care homes and home care providers to place their orders through a dedicated site.
Clipper, which opened a new distribution centre to support the initiative, receives and fulfils these orders which will be delivered by Royal Mail.
Steve Parkin, Clipper's executive chairman, said: "The support we have received from NHS Supply Chain, Unipart and 101 Logistic Brigade has been outstanding, and has enabled us to create a truly collaborative solution as a result.
"The solution has required tremendous flexibility and a shared sense of purpose and support in these challenging times."