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  6. “It was clear to us that human lives were at stake”

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“It was clear to us that human lives were at stake”

“It was clear to us that human lives were at stake”

It is Monday morning when Anna Levina first learns of her huge task: As quickly as possible the Volkswagen logistics expert and her team are to bring respiratory masks, disinfectants and other medical products from China to Germany. Every day counts because the spread of the corona virus is causing hospitals and doctors’ surgeries to run out of material. The company is therefore donating urgently required equipment. “I had to take a deep breath first,” confesses Anna Levina. “We are used to short-term requests. But this job was special.”

Anna Levina and her team usually make sure that freight containers from ports reach Volkswagen or that urgent deliveries arrive in time for production. Her specialty: transport by sea or air. This is why she is also the one who gets the assignment for the medical delivery. “Normally such a transport takes at least a week. This time we had to make it in half that time.”

One of the biggest challenges: Most of the facts that a freight agent urgently needs are not clear at first. “An air freight company must know exactly what the goods weigh, how they are packed and how they can be loaded onto an airplane. None of this was clear,” reports Anna Levina. Not even the place of departure is known. That’s why Levina’s team repeatedly joins forces with other departments and experts from Volkswagen Group China during conference calls to find the necessary answers. “That was great. Everyone pulled together. That’s how we cleared one hurdle after the other.”

First part of the donation: the loading of the breathing masks in Beijing

It quickly becomes clear: the delivery is so extensive that it does not fit into an airplane. The value of the equipment that Volkswagen acquires in China and makes available in Germany is 40 million euros. “Our first stage destination were two shipments from Beijing to Frankfurt,” reports Anna Levina. The urgently expected freight is scheduled to arrive before the weekend. This leaves less than 72 hours to find a suitable freight agent and obtain all the necessary paperwork. “We knew that it would be a very tight race,” says Levina.

The prospect of making an important contribution against the spread of the corona epidemic has motivated her team most of all. “It’s one thing to organize parts for cars. It’s what we do. We knew that this time it was a matter of human lives. It’s about keeping doctors healthy. Everybody’s put their backs into it,” Levina says.  

“We were incredibly relieved when we got the clearance and were still able to reach the plane.”

Anna Levina

The team believes on more than one occasion: we won’t make it. The freight agent helps by extending the deadline for delivery. Nevertheless, the project is on the brink of failure because of missing papers for customs. “Ten minutes before the deadline, our colleagues in China were the last to submit the export documents. We were incredibly relieved when we received the release,” says Levina. Seven hours later the planes took off. They land in Frankfurt on Friday afternoon. In Germany, public authorities are now responsible for distribution within the health system.

Materials logistics specialist Anna Levina: “Usually we come into play when things get stuck somewhere. I like this tension.”

Anna Levina does not have time to breathe deeply. She and her team will organize at least one more delivery from China. Once again, the task is to obtain papers, find a shipping agent, all under time pressure. In between, her personal corona challenge is still waiting: shopping for her elderly parents in Hanover, then back to her home-office location in Wolfsburg. Here, too, good logistics are essential.

Anna Levina has been working in her current position in material logistics for a year now. “When my predecessor retired, he said to me: You can optimize a few things, but basically it’s a relatively quiet job. Then came Brexit, then came corona. We work almost daily with an increased pulse,” she reports. It doesn’t sound like a complaint – because it’s precisely the variety that the logistics specialist loves. Anna Levina: “Usually we come into play when things get stuck. I like this tension. Hardly one day is like another.”

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