COVID-19 has been hard on businesses all over the world. The pandemic has caused unimaginable economic turmoil across countries.
Like many other industries, supply chains, which are the backbone of national economies, also had to change their strategies to stay efficient and meet the new market requirements. As a result, they have embraced digital solutions to cope with our current times’ uncertainties, challenges, and restrictions.
The supply chain ecosystem became all the more critical once the vaccines for COVID-19 were developed – it was the need of the hour to get the vaccines to the public quickly and in the right quantities.
Challenges and roadblocks in the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain
The biggest problem in any supply chain management is matching demand & supply efficiently.
Supply chain management companies are currently facing issues due to the disparity in demand and supply for COVID-19 vaccines from region to region. In addition, the lack of raw material and human resources has caused delays in the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Inequalities regarding vaccine distribution have become a global problem, as well. For example, reports show that financially stable countries are getting vaccinated 30 times more than those with lower incomes.
Vaccine management issues such as storage capacity, handling management, effective distribution between supply chain levels, and shipment procedure are also of rising concern as two doses are required for most vaccines.
Security issues such as theft and mishandling are other grave concerns, especially considering the demand for COVID-19 vaccines is higher than the supply. Time delay and lack of
Digital solutions reshaping Supply Chain Management
Digital solutions have played a crucial role in helping retailers, suppliers, and distributors drive the transformational changes required to address the challenges posed. Therefore, the accelerated adoption of these solutions in supply chain models is essential not only for the present but also for the future.
Here are some of the ways digital solutions have made an impact on supply chain ecosystems:
Shifting supply chain dynamics, changing ways of working,
McKinsey predicts that machine learning’s most significant contributions will be providing supply chain operators with significant prescriptive insights into how supply chain performance can be improved by anticipating anomalies in logistics costs and performances before they occur. In addition, machine learning models and techniques can ensure streamlined production planning, inventory management, and anomaly detection and can offer an exceptional customer experience.
AI-based tools can help understand which geographic regions to target for vaccine supply to flatten the curve of the pandemic sooner, provide insights in customizing the supply chain management system to ensure maximum vaccination in the least amount of time, and ensure the processes are being followed as designed.
Artificial intelligence tools can also be leveraged for capacity planning, predicting the demand for raw materials, work-in-progress components, and post-vaccination surveillance. With AI, supply chain management companies can improve responsiveness to vaccine demand, minimize risk, and increase visibility & transparency across the supply chain.
The race to vaccinate the global population is a daunting task and needs data-driven strategies and action plans to optimize the supply chain. Data analytics tools capture inventory, demand, capacity, and other related data across the distribution chain, to create a strong distribution strategy to help supply chain management companies handle the fluctuating demand and supply.
Data analytics tools like predictive analytics have also helped distribution companies predict vaccine demand in any geography and streamline production and distribution accordingly. In addition, using advanced data analytics technologies, governments can identify and create priority populations in different geographic locations and formulate a vaccination policy that maximizes vaccination rates and minimizes wasted dosages.
IoT sensors are used to keep track of the temperature in storage facilities and vehicles during transportation. Armed with real-time alerts, IoT solutions let stakeholders be aware of any system failures & let them monitor and optimize the vehicle routes. IoT systems can also track vaccine stocks in financially stable countries to ensure a smoother redistribution of any surplus vaccines to developing countries across the globe.
Blockchain-based solutions have been recognized as the backbone in developing a reliable and transparent supply chain management system to manage COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.
With its unique capabilities, Blockchain technology can help supply chain companies to track the transportation and storage of vaccine batches in real-time, verify vaccines’ provenance and authenticity, quick detection and identification of faulty products, and identifying and blocking counterfeit vaccines from entering the supply chain. Blockchain-based solutions ensure accurate traceability, enhanced security, and greater transparency in vaccine distribution.
COVID-19 has revealed the fragility of existing supply chain management systems and has proved the potential of digital solutions to cope with unprecedented disruption effectively and efficiently. Advancements in digital technologies such as machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics will pave the way for agile, reliable, and efficient supply chain management systems capable of handling dynamic supply and demand.