COVID-19

  • The rolling out of the Covid-19 vaccine certainly is a  glimmer of hope in the fight against the pandemic, but the world is far from celebrations.   The next big hurdle facing the world is distributing the vaccine, which relies on a complex supply chain of freezers and temperature-controlled shipping methods called the ‘cold chain.’  Let’s take a look at why the vaccine’s distribution and administration have emerged as an unprecedented logistical challenge.  A tale of troublesome temperatures In the last one year, investment in cold chain infrastructure didn’t gather at the same pace at which the vaccine was developed. Vaccines typically require appropriate storage conditions at all points in the supply chain to ensure their efficacy when they reach the patient. And it’s no big deal. For instance, the flu vaccine requires refrigerated storage between 2° to 5 °C.  However, the covid-19 vaccine has very stringent requirements. The Pfizer and BioNTech covid-19 vaccine needs to be stored at around -70°C. In contrast, the Moderna vaccine requires -20°C temperature to remain stable for up to six months. Thankfully, due to its different formulation, the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored in normal refrigerated conditions: 2° to 8°C.  Needless to say, with different temperature requirements and handling procedures, advanced cold chain facilities have become critical to administering the vaccine to the masses.  Where the Cold Chain doesn’t go Experts have estimated that somewhere between 12 billion and 15 billion Covid-19 vaccines are needed globally. At present, the world produces and distributes around 6.4 billion flu vaccines annually, and it’s predicted that about 9 billion Covid-19 vaccines will be made in 2021.  The downside to these numbers is that the global cold chain is massively underdeveloped, with only about 10% of the required capacity existing in some developing nations to handle this huge increase...
  • A year ago, none of us could have predicted that 2020 and 2021 would push global trade into utter chaos. But what’s even more astonishing is the spirit of resilience shown by supply chains worldwide all through the pandemic.   Despite facing the full force of covid-19, the industry refused to get bogged down by the crisis.  Now, as we complete a year of the pandemic, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit and reflect on the insights gained from the last several months.  Uncertainty is here to stay, but so are opportunities Even as organisations slowly bounce back from the covid setback, unpredictability is bound to remain. But at the same time, by making efforts to achieve supply chain resilience, global organisations can find opportunities amid the crisis.  The focus now should be on adopting tools that facilitate supply chain transparency and offer rich analytics to make informed decisions.  Counter crisis with the right tools  At the start of 2020, IMO 2020’s regulations forced nearly 10% of the global container fleet to be retrofitted for scrubbers and increased carrier costs by 10-15%. And the disruption caused by the pandemic driven container shortage, Suez Canal blockage, etc., further led to price volatility. Even today, due to faltering contracts, companies are being forced to turn to the spot market. Thus, for those with hundreds and thousands of shipments per month, it’s crucial to have competent tools at hand to secure competitive rates quickly, each time.    Similarly,  with port delays becoming a common occurrence, it’s vital that organisations leverage advanced auto-tracking systems to trace their shipments’ movement. With end-to-end supply chain visibility, shippers can ensure that they’re well-equipped to deal with possible headwinds.  It’s never too late to adopt sustainable practices  The International Transport Forum estimates that about 7% of global emissions...
  • With a faint light in sight at the end of the COVID tunnel, pent-up demand has emerged as a major concern for businesses across industries. Every few weeks, there seems to be a speed bump here or an upswing there for the global supply chains, making it impossible to forecast what’s next. Why the fuss over ‘pent up demand’?   When the pandemic hit the manufacturing hubs, goods couldn’t move despite the demand. For instance, there was a demand for 10,000 packages of a commodity, but the company had to be shut down. The demand remained, but manufacturers couldn’t produce the goods, and hence these goods never made it to the market.  However, with the vaccine roll-out and gradual normalisation of trade patterns, this pent up demand is now set to unleash. But no company today is in the position to accurately forecast this demand let alone prepare their supply chains for the impact.  Countering the muddled demand forecast Although most companies have abundant data, it hasn’t necessarily served them well during a once-in-a-century event. They need new tools to look at that data differently, solutions that can automate processes and help strategize and achieve business resilience. It is here that state-of-the-art supply chain technology steps in.  Amid the turmoil, innovative tech solutions are helping companies gain the much-needed agility and have a better chance of not only surviving but thriving during these volatile times.  Automation technology to the rescue Automated negotiations to secure best deals In light of faltering contracts, organisations are rushing to the spot market to keep their goods moving. For companies with hundreds of shipments per month, the traditional practice of manually contacting each vendor and comparing each quote is impractical. However, competent tech solutions can automate everything from creating enquiries to conducting dynamic negotiations and awarding...
  • Spiralling freight rates have left businesses worldwide scrambling to stay afloat and weather yet another year full of unknowns. Even now, as we have entered 2021, soaring prices are increasingly piling more pressure on the already stretched global supply chains.  To better equip ourselves for future disruptions and safeguard against the present market volatility, we must look at various factors that have shaped freight rates over the last several months. Skyrocketing freight rates: Where did it all begin?  Companies caught global supply chains off guard  In Q2 2020, when governments worldwide imposed lockdown restrictions to contain the spread of covid-19, manufacturing units came to a halt. The assumption was that along with the demand for carrier services, rates would drop as well.  However, the events that followed had a counter effect. Production gradually resumed and caught the global supply chains off guard. Along that time, carriers servicing the main Transpacific East-West and Asia-Europe trades had withdrawn capacity. But demand for carrier space bounced back sooner than expected, resulting in a rush for securing space and inevitably, freight rates soared to record levels.  Blank sailings created a capacity crunch  Shipping lines reduced the number of vessels in water to prevent the rates from dropping too low and fetch better margins. These blank sailings worked against those shippers who could and wanted to ship goods. Despite the drop in oil prices, with cancelled sailings, prices continued to skyrocket.  Acute container shortage crisis  At the beginning of the pandemic, cargo arriving from high-risk countries was quarantined at ports for 14 days. This led to a slowdown in the turnaround time for containers. Besides, as Asian countries were first to recover, thousands of boxes headed out of Asia to the US and Europe, only to not return soon enough.  The cascading effect caused congestion...
  • The recent shipping container shortage that’s left everything from soybeans to smartphones idling in ports threw global trade into chaos. While shippers were scrambling to keep their goods moving, the import/export imbalance pushed ocean rates to eye-watering levels. So, where have all the containers gone? Many remain stranded in inland depots, and hundreds more are piled up at seaports, while others continue to be stuck onboard carriers. The result, an acute deficit in Asia, whilst the US and parts of Europe grapple with severe container congestions.  To fully grasp why the containers have landed where they are, it’s vital to understand the domino effect that has led to the container shortage crisis. Let’s go back to where and how it all started:  1. The Covid-19 pandemic prompted a North American bottleneck As the Covid-19 pandemic spread from China to the rest of the world, international trade was brought to a screeching halt. Many manufacturing units were forced to shut down temporarily. As a result, a large number of incoming and outgoing containers never moved past the ports.  In a desperate attempt to stabilise ocean rates, carriers began to impose blank sailings. They also reduced the number of vessels at sea. Not only did this bring imports and exports to a standstill, but crucially this also meant that carriers wouldn’t pick up empty containers. This made it impossible, particularly for Asian traders, to retrieve empty boxes from the United States.  2. China bounces back Despite having originated in China, the world’s manufacturing hub was also the first to recover. While China resumed production and exports, other countries continued to scramble with a reduced workforce and slow production.  Slowly, as other Asian countries began to get back on track, empty containers in Asia headed out to Europe and North America. However, they...
  • The covid-19 pandemic’s onset brought global supply chains’ fragilities into sharp focus and magnified the need for organisations to build resilience and agility into their systems.  While the world might be gradually recovering from the covid backset and bouncing back to normalcy, the truth is that there may not be a ‘stable state’ for global trade in the years to come. So, the best way forward is to be equipped with the right strategies and tools to face the unexpected.  Here are five strategies to help your organisation build a more resilient, agile supply chain and overcome unforeseen obstacles:  No problem’s tall with supply chain agility and resilience There is a fine line between disruptions and opportunities, and you can cross it with supply chain resilience and agility. It’s no surprise that companies are heavily investing in improving adaptability, efficiency, minimising risks and building sustainability instead of focusing solely on cost savings.  Especially after the covid-19 episode, companies are proactively turning towards flexible sourcing and distribution strategies. Manufacturers are even considering localising sourcing to build more resilience into their systems. This shifting pattern to suppliers closer to manufacturing facilities is expected to gain more traction in the time ahead.  For your organisations to thrive amid uncertainty, it’s crucial to realign your goals and adopt a lean-approach. Ensuring integration in end-to-end supply chain management can help offer newer solutions to unforeseen challenges.  It’s vital to note that emerging technologies will have a pivotal role in the journey towards process resilience and agility. New-age technologies such as Freight Management Systems can enable you to connect parties across your supply chain network, ensure accuracy via automation and drive cost savings in the process.  Your ability to innovate and scale up determines how well you will thrive  When a global disruption hits your business,...
  • After a wild year that 2020 was, the arrival of the covid-19 vaccine, at last, got along a great deal of relief for everyone. However, the already-stretched supply chains are now up for a more significant challenge- to execute an unprecedented worldwide distribution of the vaccine. What we are witnessing today is the post-pandemic phase shape the global supply chains. Several new supply chain trends are sure to emerge through this phase and beyond. Chances are these trends will yet again impact the way supply chains operate and pave the way for further growth.  COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: Monumental task for the logistics industry How is the air cargo industry ensuring that the vaccine reaches its due destination safely and soundly?  A news report by The Hindu Business Line stated, “The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that it will take the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747 flights to carry enough single-dose vaccinations to inoculate the globe’s 7.8 billion people—a monumental task.”  Moreover, the task’s magnitude is just one of the many challenges the industry is facing today. Due to most of the vaccines’ low-temperature requirements, the air cargo logistics industry is facing a massive challenge concerning cold chain transportation. Also, the transport of these vaccines has to be executed amid a high degree of scrutiny by manufacturers and governments to ensure safe and efficient delivery.  Another aspect that logistics service providers have to take care of is the varying temperature requirements of vaccines by different manufacturers. Service providers need to ensure that Pfizer’s vaccines are transported and stored at  -70°C whereas the Moderna and Astra Zeneca vaccines can remain stable between 2°C to 8°C. These challenges and the world’s dependence on air cargo for the vaccine have made it critical to ensure the cold chain’s integrity.  Demand for marine reefer...
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