A longstanding relationship with Teesside University has helped one of the UK’s leading food suppliers rapidly transform its business to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19.
Direct Line Supplies has said the ingrained skills and knowledge which it has accumulated throughout its 12 year partnership with the University contributed towards its ability to launch a new food delivery service in under 24 hours.
The Thornaby-based business works with over 300 suppliers to provide more than 1,200 different products to the UK food service.
However, the closure of the hospitality sector in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak resulted in the company losing nearly 60% of its regular business.
DLS decided to focus its business towards its remaining 40% of customers in the takeaway sector and also looked to set up a domestic delivery service.
The University has worked in partnership with DLS since 2008 on a range of student placements, graduate recruitment and specific innovation and growth projects.
The most recent joint project is a 12 month Growth Associate Project (GAP) which began in January this year to develop a supply chain management system with automation capabilities, as part of the company’s continuous improvement of service delivery.
GAPs are one of the offers from Grow Tees Valley, an ERDF-funded programme of support for ambitious companies in the Tees Valley looking to adopt new products or services.
Nathan Williams, a Computer Science student was placed as an associate in the company under the supervision of Barry Hebbron, an Enterprise Fellow in the School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies, to work on the project as part of his final year assessment.
When the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak became apparent DLS was able to pivot quickly to set up Orchard Vine Foods, a delivery-service which observes the need for social distancing and delivers restaurant quality food in retail packs from temperature-controlled vehicles.
Pedram Salahshouri, Director of DLS, believes the ongoing partnership with Teesside University was a major factor in successfully establishing this new venture. He said: ‘Our ambitions and projects undertaken for the last 12 years have excelled with the support and strong relationship with Teesside University who we see as a crucial extension of our team.
‘More now than ever with the changes taking place globally we could not wish for a more professional and structured support network that can help us evolve and adapt at an elevated rate equal to the speed of any change we face.
‘As the world changes right before our eyes, we have been forced to fight or flight for the existence of our business. What is a scary and unprecedented situation today we hope to be a story of resilience and defiance next year.
‘With the support of the University and the investment into our tech and dev division, we secured the skillset, capability and encouragement to adapt a change of our whole operation within 24 hours. No small feat made possible with our defiant team. Thus Orchard Vine Foods was born.
‘Transferring the lost volume from B2B to B2C has not only been a fantastic challenge and journey towards survival but found ourselves suddenly providing an essential service to those who struggle to leave their homes during such dangerous times.’
Suhail Aslam, Programme Manager for Grow Tees Valley, added: ‘The Grow Tees Valley project has been designed to target Tees Valley SMEs that have ambitions to significantly grow their business through the development of existing, or new, products or services into new sectors and markets.
‘DLS has quickly responded to the Covid-19 challenge and utilised the GTV project to help access the right support and expertise to navigate through the challenges and opportunities this has created.’