Transportation & Shipping Networks Pushed to the Brink With Vaccine Distribution: What Shippers Need to Know

Transportation Networks Pushed To The Brink With Vaccine Distribution
As the COVID-19 vaccines become available, shipping networks’ efficiency to issue the vaccines globally is a critical undertaking, resulting in added network stress in distribution. As reported by Supply & Demand Chain Executive, “Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine will be unlike previous vaccine distribution efforts due to its scale and urgency. These key factors will provide new challenges for pharmaceutical companies and the logistics companies that will support them.” Keeping up with the regulations for the COVID vaccine has many distributors scratching their heads. For one, dry ice, known as a hazardous material in the aviation world, has now increased in load capacity for the flights carrying the vaccine. No one knows the effects it will have on passengers or personnel on board due to the amount of carbon dioxide coming from the packages themselves and into the airline. The COVID vaccine has pushed the transportation industry’s limits thus far and will keep doing so well into 2021. Looking ahead, there are ways to counteract those future nightmares.

Why A COVID-19 Vaccine Represents New Challenges to Shipping Networks

The COVID vaccine will go down in history as the ultimate challenge in the transportation world. Why? It’s cold. Very cold. Dry ice is required to transport the vaccine at super-chilled temperatures, increasing the safety protocol for this shipment. The amount of product the carriers will carry to keep up with demand will be very hefty. Add to the cold storage challenge that fact that there’s a dry ice shortage in the works, and the transport requirements become especially challenging. Additionally, the vaccine is viewed as a priority shipment ahead of any other shipments due to immense demand and immense temperature regulations that come with it. And for right now, due to the dry ice limitations, there are limits to the cargo capacity for each trip. Even reefer is at the mercy as the world sees more demand from the effects of the recent surge in coronavirus cases and tragic outcomes. And then, there’s the problem with increased demand due to peak returns season. There is a significant challenge for all shipping networks.

Increasing Capacity Procurement Is the Only Way to Overcome the Problems

COVID vaccine shipments limit capacity shipments. It’s a fundamental problem to solve in today’s world. Increasing the number of carriers one works with will overcome any problem that shippers might encounter with vaccine distribution. What if one of the distributors has too many clients to fulfill in one day or it becomes hard to procure a shipping lane for that day? Having multiple shippers diversifies all the outcomes. It can also diversify the type of lanes used for shipping, for instance, land, air, and sea, so that distributors can reach more areas than imagined. Increasing capacity procurement can overcome many of the challenges associated with shipping this critical vaccine.

Additional Steps Shippers Can Take to Increase Agility Through This Vaccine-Induced Disruption

It’s not just increasing the number of loads that are executed, it goes back to doing so effectively to add supply chain agility and flexibility. Shippers should follow these tips to optimize capacity utilization and freight optimization:
  1. Increase lead times to account for any orders that need to ship with priority in the shipping networks.

  2. Encourage customers to order in advance to prepare for more COVID vaccines in advance.

  3. Optimize space and asset utilization in shipments so there’s no empty space, and loads can get to their destinations faster.

  4. Take advantage of multimodal optimization, using air, land, and sea combinations to get a lower cost and to take advantage of all transportation has to offer.

  5. Use freight data indices to tender freight at more competitive rates and to analyze best cost and practices.

Increase Throughput in Shipping Networks by Working With the Right Enterprise TMS Partner

Though the road through the COVID vaccine shipments may be challenging, proper planning is critical to ensuring success. And working with the right distribution partners can go a long way to keeping costs under control, securing more transportation capacity, and maximizing the throughput of both vaccines and other loads.

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