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Creating Supply Chain Flexibility for Fast and Efficient Vaccine Distribution

If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that things change quickly! It’s been a long year dealing with the ups and downs of COVID-19, but with news in recent weeks promising efficacy rates in vaccine trials and inoculation readiness, the supply chain logistics around vaccine distribution has taken a sudden shift.

FreightWaves reports that distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. could begin as early as December 11. The announcement was made after Pfizer submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency authorization to approve its candidate vaccine, with an application from Moderna for its vaccine candidate also expected soon.

The initial vaccine distribution will be both limited and targeted. For example, once the FDA grants emergency approval, Pfizer has prepared to quickly distribute the coronavirus vaccine with a focus on hospitals, outpatient clinics, community vaccination locations, and pharmacies as some of the first locations to receive the inoculations.

As has been widely reported, Pfizer’s vaccine entails strict cold chain requirements that add a level of complexity to its distribution plans. The pharmaceutical company has specially designed temperature-controlled thermal shippers utilizing dry ice to maintain recommended temperature conditions of -70°C for up to 10 days with the intent to utilize Pfizer-strategic transportation partners to ship by air to major hubs within a country/region and by ground transport to dosing locations.

With such stringent requirements, supply chain leaders involved in critical vaccine distribution need to adopt an agile approach to shipping that allows them to anticipate, adapt, and prioritize within shorter time frames in response to carrier capacity issues and other potential disruptions to the supply environment. The ability to optimize distribution strategies in real time and make smart decisions by quickly comparing distribution scenarios to adapt to ongoing shifts in demand, while mitigating delivery risks will allow logistics experts, pharmaceutical distribution specialists, and global carriers to prepare for any potential hiccups in the process.

To help attune their approach to shipping in today’s fast-changing environment to prepare for quick vaccine distribution, participating organizations should adopt a digitized supply chain established via cloud solutions. Integrating a cloud-based transportation management system (TMS) for parcel shipping with their supply chain technology stack can help organizations predict and anticipate risk while improving transparency and coordination across the entire supply chain. This kind of system can provide the data and analytics necessary to detect sub-par logistics performance and uncover opportunities to optimize execution for better outcomes.

ebook logistyx future-proofing-supply-chainDigitized supply chains provide faster, more accurate, and more flexible solutions than other supply chains. For instance, leveraging a cloud-based TMS for parcel shipping enables shippers to efficiently expand their transportation network and utilize multiple carriers, including regional carriers and last-mile couriers – essential partners to create supply chain flexibility and diversity to help attain the distinctive scale of this crucial endeavor of vaccine distribution.

Contact us to learn more about how Logistyx enables shippers to quickly adjust and respond to even the most complex supply chain scenarios.

Global Supply Chain Considerations for Shipping COVID-19 Vaccine

Typically, prediction precedes preparation, but when it comes to developing a supply chain strategy to distribute life-saving COVID-19 vaccines to global populations, time is of the essence. A recent Crain’s Chicago Business article explored the many challenges that face supply chain professionals responsible for distributing a prospective COVID-19 vaccine and any plans currently in the works.

With dozens of vaccines currently moving quickly through testing phases, supply chain professionals have started exploring methods for shipping life-saving immunizations quickly, safely and cost-effectively. Some of the key considerations for shippers, manufacturers and other industry professionals include:

  • Scale: To effectively combat the virus, a vaccine must be distributed widely to the world’s populations, requiring a global, cross-border shipping strategy. According to Crain’s, it will take approximately 8,000 cargo planes to transport enough vaccines to protect half of the global population – a feat that will require precise coordination from production to delivery. Leveraging multiple carrier services, including local and regional carriers, and experimenting with new delivery modes may be required to attain the global scale of this crucial endeavor.
  • Distribution: The COVID-19 pandemic has put the airline industry in disarray and stymied many large manufacturing hubs, creating numerous supply chain challenges. With this in mind, considerations need to be made for distributing the vaccine to remote, indigent populations that may be harder to reach, which may require special technology and options for flexible last-mile delivery. Drones serve as one option for delivering vaccines to these areas, though getting the medicine to those in need will likely require a mix of transportation modes.
  • Shipping conditions: Transporting vaccines require a complex set of protective measures, including precise refrigeration settings and advanced technology to keep the inoculations intact. To maintain a vaccine’s efficacy, health officials have cited that a temperature setting of 35.6 to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit needs to be ensured throughout the shipping process.

While there’s no way to predict the unknown, looking ahead at how COVID-19 vaccines could make their way through the supply chain is a reminder of how complex shipping scenarios can be simplified with the right software. As explored in our recent eBook, React, Recover, Prepare: Future-Proofing Supply Chain Management, moving towards a proactive strategy created with future challenges in mind is a must for supply chain resilience through the pandemic and beyond.

ebook logistyx future-proofing-supply-chainAs the industry continues to prepare for supply chain challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the race for a vaccine, Logistyx can equip organizations with best-of-breed parcel shipping software to handle even the most multifaceted logistics scenarios, just as we helped Gilead Sciences fast-track the shipping process of its investigational coronavirus treatment.

Contact us today to learn more about how Logistyx’s cloud TMS for parcel shipping can help increase supply chain agility.

Supply & Demand Chain Executive: An Analytical Approach to COVID-19 Recovery

This year COVID-19 shook the world, including causing major disruptions in the supply chain. The question isn’t whether companies were affected, but how they’ll go about recovering.

For the June 2020 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive, Logistyx Vice President of Business Intelligence and Data Analytics Mike Eisner tackled this exact question in an article titled “Supply Chain Analytics Planning for Pandemic Recovery.”

The speed with which retailers had to respond to an evolving supply chain, disrupted retail model, and enhanced e-commerce consumer demands during the pandemic is forcing many retailers to reflect on the systems they use to support their business. Implementation of a global, flexible, multiple carrier parcel platform to support consumer fulfillment requirements is critical. Leveraging this with insights from prescriptive analytics to support strategic decisions and leverage the execution platform is equally critical. Retailers not utilizing these types of technologies are at a competitive disadvantage and will struggle to quickly and accurately make the right decisions affecting their survival.

Mike covers both the supply chain challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and how companies can apply predictive and prescriptive analytics to recover and gird against future disruptions.

Read Mike’s full article in Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s June 2020 issue: https://issuu.com/supplydemandchainfoodlogistics/docs/0620sdc_digital/34

Supply & Demand Chain Executive: Emerging Technologies in the Supply Chain

Robots. Artificial Intelligence. Automation. Machine Learning. All of these impact the modern supply chain.

For the cover story of Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s June 2020 issue, Brielle Jaekel spoke with industry executives for their insights about “emerging technologies that claim to help companies in the supply chain.” Logistyx President Ken Fleming was among those interviewed and quoted in the article:

Large-scale technology launches can take up to seven years. But, smaller scale activations are what companies look to launch quickly to help increase demand and keep employees safe. Some even say that those who have failed to implement large-scale technology deployments are already too late, since the transition period is so long.

“Many of the supply chain industry’s least desirable common practices are being replaced or circumvented with technology, but it’s almost too late for those that haven’t yet started planning for these transitions considering how long they can take,” says Ken Fleming, president of Logistyx. “With global retail holding companies mapping out 5- to 7-year transition plans and some of the most established U.S. retailers requiring as much as three years or more each time they update their warehouse management system, it’s easy to understand why organizations that haven’t already launched these initiatives would hesitate to go to such lengths to embrace new technologies, become more efficient and better serve customers.”

Going beyond tech adoption challenges, Ken also discusses success stories of adopting automation and technologies that speed up manual processes in both large and small operations, as well as the future role of artificial intelligence in data processing and analysis.

To read the full article, including Ken’s comments, visit Supply & Demand Chain Executive: https://www.sdcexec.com/software-technology/article/21133671/a-smart-supply-chain-is-an-efficient-one

Ken Fleming Shares How to Fuel Supply Chain Resilience with Multi-Carrier Software in Business Chief

With e-commerce demand increasing significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, many organizations have sought ways to improve the agility of their supply chains. Logistyx President Ken Fleming recently shared insights with Business Chief on improving supply chain resilience through the use of multi-carrier software. A few key benefits to this approach include:

  • Flexibility – The ability to access multiple carriers centralized within one software database makes pivoting easy, whether that means switching carriers when needed, tapping into a broader last-mile delivery network or streamlining cross-border execution.
  • Customization – The recent spike in e-commerce has increased customers’ ability to select their desired shipping scenario, whether through home delivery; buy online, pick-up in store; drop ship, etc. Multi-carrier shipping software enables shippers to work with multiple carriers’ labeling and communications requirements to meet customers’ delivery demands from within the shipper’s own system.
  • Cost savings – Providing access to a wider variety of carriers and more affordable delivery options can help keep costs in check.
  • Increased trust – By building relationships with reliable carriers, companies can ensure consistent parcel delivery fulfillment leveraging multi-carrier shipping software to provide greater transparency through data used to uncover opportunities to improve performance and reduce costs.

In Ken’s words, “A cloud-based multi-carrier shipping system can give shippers the ability to quickly onboard and optimize new carrier services. This is a game changer in a crisis that requires a retail shipper to suddenly increase capacity, or pivot to a ship-from-store model, for example – or even pull local courier services into the transportation mix to maintain on-time delivery rates.”

Read Ken’s full article on Business Chief: “Multi-carrier: One way to improve supply chain resilience” and drop us a line to learn how you can respond to, and recover more quickly from, unforeseen disruptions by optimizing supply chain operations.

How COVID-19 Will Prepare Supply Chains for the Next Disruption

Global supply chains have historically faced myriad forms of disruption – from weather events… to the Amazon effect… to Brexit… to trade wars… and now to the COVID-19 outbreak. And with each disruption comes ambiguity regarding a) how shippers and customers will be impacted and b) how long the disruption will endure.

ebook logistyx quadrant Choosing a TMS for Parcel ShippingWith regard to COVID-19, the answer to the latter could be grim.  According to Ethan Harris, head of global economic research at Bank of America, “The shock to supply chains is deeper and more sprawling than the trade wars of the past two years and likely to be more prolonged than the storms, earthquakes, or floods that have been a source of stress for major industries in the past.”  Oxford economics echoes this prognostication, estimating the COVID-19 outbreak will cost the global economy $1.1 trillion.  And Dun & Bradstreet similarly weigh in, predicting approximately 5 million businesses around the world could be impacted.

Unfortunately, our early observations here at Logistyx are in line with these statistics.  We’re seeing multiple industry sectors impacted in some way, and we’re finding the reactions to these impacts fall into one of three categories:

1. React

Companies have had to react to the epidemic because they were unprepared. They either have urgent PCR activity to support their supply chain operations or have implemented cash conservation measures until clarity with respect to the longevity of the situation is better defined.

2. Recover

Companies are planning for recovery after the pandemic.  Current estimates project we will begin to see relief in Q3, and companies are preparing now on two key supply chain fronts:
a) Re-establishing supply chain projects and activities, and
b) Navigating a very short preparation window for Peak Season.

3. Prepare

Some companies are already establishing programs to prepare for the impact of another unforeseen situation.  Unplanned downtime is being used to strategize how to minimize future disruptions, some of which includes Disaster Recovery Plan and Continuity Plan upgrades, increasing carrier access and connectivity, cloud-based system upgrades, and increasing supply chain visibility programs with Control Tower applications.

Retailers Prepare Now to Return to Normal Later

Currently, Logistyx is managing an influx of requests to support companies in the Recover and Prepare stages.  The vast majority of retailers in particular are aware a 100% focus on the immediate situation may have unfortunate consequences once the world exits lock down and returns to something approaching normal. In fact, we have many retailers going through system upgrades now, so they are not impacted later during Q3/Q4 Peak.

In addition to taking steps today to successfully navigate a compressed timeframe for Peak planning, many retailers are also considering that consumer behavior may change forever.  Let’s face it: even the most ecommerce-phobic consumer may place their first grocery order online to avoid crowds, be satisfied with the experience, and emerge from this pandemic a convert.  Online retailers will of course benefit enormously, and channel strategies for legacy retailers and brands will need to radically shift as a result if they are to survive. Retailers that quickly identify what this means for their supply chain and technology infrastructure and pivot their channel strategies accordingly will gain a competitive edge.

Cloud Technology Decreases Supply Chain Risk

In addition, we are receiving a number of requests from manufacturers, retailers, and 3PLs alike looking to digitize supply chain management and move as much of their technology stack as possible to the cloud.  The goal is to improve the speed, accuracy, and flexibility of their supply chains by building a single source of truth, and a digitized supply chain improves a company’s ability to anticipate risk, improve transparency and coordination across the supply chain, and manage the issues that arise from increasing complexity.  Retailers, for example, with the digital technology necessary to flex omnichannel fulfillment muscles such as ship-to-store, order pickup, and ship-from-store, have been ahead of the game this go-round, and others are learning from their example and positioning themselves accordingly for the next disruption.

Control Tower Improves Transparency

Finally, many companies are leveraging Control Tower technology to track potential delivery disruptions and share information easily. By improving the visibility of a product’s journey from warehouse to consumer, or store to consumer, or even store to store, they’ve found they’re in a better position to pre-empt delivery delays and communicate real-time information with customers, preserving brand loyalty during this unusual time.

Furthermore, Control Tower and Business Intelligence technology also normalizes shipping data and enables quick, real-time analysis.  Companies can look at their transportation costs in a deeper way and inform decision making.  For example, rate shopping – critical functionality at a time when surcharges are increasing – can be executed quickly and without an intense reliance on human resources.  Instead of scrambling at the last minute, companies have a lot of information at their fingertips within minutes of a potential disruption.

Act Today on COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has most companies making substantial modifications to their supply chains to avoid disruptions. The long-term question is: what lessons will they learn?  According to Sunil Chopra, a professor of operations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, “There is a human tendency to basically think bad things will not happen if they have not happened for a while.  So if it has been a year or two since the last rare event, we start thinking, ‘Oh, that’ll never happen.’ But the biggest mistake that we can make is to severely underestimate the probability of it happening.”

For more information about how Logistyx’s cloud TMS for parcel shipping can help you prepare for the next supply chain disruption, contact us today.