The Covid-19 vaccine is providing a ray of hope after a difficult 2020. Many experts and the awaiting public are now intently monitoring the rollout process. Companies like Pfizer and Moderna have developed and begun producing vaccines in a rapid timeframe, but the challenge has shifted to getting the shots into people’s arms. While this process has lagged in some states, the difficulty of “last-mile delivery” has come to the forefront. Challenges including refrigeration needs, vaccine transportation, and necessary vaccination sites have added new hurdles for states and countries looking to finally bring an end to the pandemic.
This “last-mile” logistics effort isn’t exclusive to the vaccine rollout. Organizations in a variety of industries are always seeking a more efficient, smooth final delivery process for their supply chain. For those organizations, building in operational agility – the ability of organizations to flex and adapt their operations to reflect current conditions – with citizen development and dual-track transformation can bring about that efficiency and flexibility that is needed in an era of constant change.
Obviously, not every supply chain is as difficult as a mass rollout of a vaccine – nor are other supply chains as visible and relevant to the entire world. But with that process as a major story in the start of 2021, let’s look at how last-mile vaccine distribution reflects the need for a more operationally agile last-mile delivery system.
One of the major supply chain hiccups comes when organizations do not have access to the right data when they need it. For the vaccine rollout, officials at the state level have expressed continued frustration that they don’t have clear expectations of what they’ll receive from the federal government and when. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, for example, has continued to share his frustration about the federal government’s inability to provide specific shipment data.
Without this state and federal collaboration, states cannot accurately plan on how many citizens they can efficiently vaccinate, and run the risk of overbooking or under-booking appointments. Deeper collaboration along with centralized administration allows both suppliers and the end-users to better track and resolve issues, efficiently schedule appointments and administer vaccines, build a timelier process, and make decisions much quicker. Further, they can stand up the systems they need as quickly as possible – in some instances, in under two weeks.
Throughout the pandemic, state and local governments often struggled with not knowing what kind of testing capabilities and funding would be available to them. This has continued into the early days of vaccine rollout, with states often unsure of how many doses they will receive, based on national supply and production processes. Drilling deeper, there is limited insight into when shipments are picked up, when they are en route, and in what quantities.
When organizations can provide increased data visibility, they can deliver insights and important information, such as staffing levels and distribution data, to everybody who needs to act on them. With a centralized data repository, organizations can ensure accuracy, reduce time on data entry, and consistently inform the right people with the right information.
Finally, one additional disruption with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout comes with different requirements based on the producer. Moderna’s vaccine need to be stored at a much lower temperature than Pfizer’s, while new potential vaccines from Johnson & Johnson may only require one dose compared to Pfizer and Moderna’s two. This means that state and local governments need to prepare for different needs based on which vaccine they are receiving and distributing.
The flexibility to adapt to the landscape of the vaccine’s evolving needs and properties based on what vaccine is coming in will decrease unused or improperly stored surplus and speed up states’ ability to get shots into arms. By equipping teams with the ability to be flexible and change on a dime, supply chains can reduce waste and ensure optimal efficiency – and in the instance of supply chains like this one, saving lives and bringing an eventual end to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While this vaccine rollout is incredibly public and incredibly difficult, the lessons of its challenges can provide opportunities for other organizations to shore up their supply chain and ensure they are operationally agile enough to solve any possible challenge.