Creating Supply Chain Flexibility for Fast and Efficient Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution

By Alain Breillatt, Vice President, Product Marketing at Logistyx Technologies

The rapid and safe delivery of billions of doses of various Covid-19 vaccines worldwide is possibly the biggest challenge that the logistics industry will face.

With Pfizer intending to produce up to 1.3 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in 2021, Moderna projecting between 600 million and one billion doses in the same period, and at least three other vaccines in Phase 3 trials anticipating roll outs in 2021, the magnitude of the task is clear. 

Managing global distribution strategies for a time-sensitive and in some cases temperature-critical product on such a huge scale creates considerable operational challenges. Many pharma companies and global carriers have turned to parcel transportation management technology providers to help them prepare.

Since as early as April 2020, Logistyx Technologies has worked with a number of pharmaceutical and life sciences customers and its carrier partners to help them plan ahead for the challenges of distributing vaccines worldwide, so they would be ready to go as soon as regulatory approval was granted.  This has included choosing the right carriers to handle the specific requirements of vaccine shipments, as well as planning for the bulk storage and return of valuable bespoke temperature controlled ‘cooling boxes’ (with multiple sensors), which some companies are planning to use to distribute vaccine shipments. Temperature control and the mass quantities that need to be rushed out across the globe will stretch existing medical supply chains’ capabilities and volume.

Agile library of carriers

Any organisation that wants to manage distribution of the vaccine needed to rapidly build an agile and global library of carriers to cover all destinations. In many cases, shippers had to quickly identify and go-live with multiple new carriers who specialise in specific geographic locations - with back up carriers ready to go in case of carrier capacity issues, or if the first choice does not perform as required.  It simply is not an option to throw away vaccines because they spoiled in transit due to delays or an inability to effectively manage extreme cold temperature (as low as -70˚C) controlled cargo from origin to final destination. 

Under normal circumstances, it would typically take a month for a customer to gain approval to go live with a new carrier. However, due to the critical nature of the shipments, Logistyx was able to bring this down to one to two weeks without compromising on the rigorous nature of the process. 

To gain approval for shipping with a new carrier, it is necessary to prove that the labels and electronic data produced are compliant with the specifications required by the carrier.  In international shipping, each carrier has its own quirks when it comes to data, and the verification of this is critical, especially if this is the first time that hazardous materials, such as dry ice pods for example, are being shipped. If the data is incorrect, you get errors and delays which you just can’t afford.

Data verification

The data verification process involves a sequential flow, starting with processing a few orders in a test environment with real data. Having tested the data, the next step is to check that the physical label meets all requirements. Is the ink black enough to be easily read by the carriers’ systems? Is there the right amount of shine on the labels?  Are all the right codes being used? 

A seemingly simple 2” x 6” label with a 2D barcode contains vital and complex data, including routing codes, information on hazardous materials and payment terms that must be accurate.  You do not want a time and temperature sensitive shipment to go astray because the routing code sends it to the wrong hub.

To ensure that vaccines can be shipped as a matter of urgency, this process was reviewed with various customers, to ensure that millions of shipments are ready and labelled with carrier compliant information to enter the supply chain as soon as regulatory approval is given.


Pro-active shipment management

Of course, the preparation for shipping is just one piece of the puzzle.  Another important part is full real-time visibility of shipments from the point of departure to final delivery. This can be achieved through the Business Intelligence function of a cloud-based Transportation Management System (TMS) for parcel shipping and where necessary partnering with IoT providers who deliver deep metadata for truckload visibility.  Armed with information regarding the exact whereabouts of any shipment and possible delays, enables the supply chain leaders who are coordinating the distribution of the vaccines to proactively manage shipments whilst they are in transit, even potentially diverting them, in order to avoid degradation of the vaccine.

Using a digitised cloud-based supply chain can also provide the data and analytics required to detect sub-par logistics performance and uncover opportunities to optimise execution for even better outcomes.

Everyone is hoping that 2021 will bring a return to normalcy.  By building flexible and agile supply chains to meet the specific requirements of the various vaccines, with real-time visibility of shipments, the logistics industry is helping to play its part by ensuring that each delivery is right first time, on time, every time.

Alain Breillatt is Vice President, Product Marketing at Logistyx Technologies, a leader in transportation management for parcel shipping.  Alain oversees product messaging and sales enablement while helping direct new product initiatives focused on continual improvement of TME, the industry’s most robust cloud multi-carrier shipping solution. Breillatt brings a global perspective of 20 years’ experience, from fostering industrial innovation at Illinois Tool Works to creating novel analytics for CPG and retail clients at Nielsen.

Logistyx Technologies is the leader in Transportation Management for parcel shipping, providing an unmatched global multi-carrier network, predictive analytics and full visibility into customer deliveries. Its software boosts parcel shipping efficiencies and other business KPIs for many of the world’s top manufacturers, retailers and logistics providers.

Logistyx’s flagship software, TME, is the world’s first single engine specifically designed for parcel shipping. With more than 8,500 carrier service integrations globally, TME provides carrier compliance, predictive analytics and tracking on shipping from start to finish.

Headquartered in Chicago, Logistyx Technologies also has U.S. offices in St. Louis and Tulsa, Okla. and international offices in Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Singapore. For more information, visit www.Logistyx.com

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