Refrigerated container SuperFreezer developed by Thermo King

COVID vaccine supply chain: temperature is crucial but there are other important issues

2021/04/08 at 7:21 PM

Delivery of the COVID vaccine is becoming more and more common. Maintaining a temperature is a crucial point for such supply chains. What other pillars could be detected in this area?

The COVID vaccine is gaining more importance among logistics providers across the world. As of today, 359 million doses are administered worldwide and this number will increase in the coming months. Meanwhile, the rapidly growing figure always means a headache for logistics companies especially for those involved in the cold supply chain.

“In fact, we’ve seen significant gaps in the end amount distribution of the vaccine. One risk we did anticipate is the infrastructure challenges in the developing economies,” Lissa D’Arcy, Solutions Integration Manager at Emerson, outlined several important challenges at the dedicated session of the Intermodal Connect online event. However, the increasing figures are also the dawn or the expression of new trends in some specific area of activity. What about the COVID vaccine supply chain?

Key trends

According to Lissa D’Arcy, there could be defined five new key trends in the cold supply chain, which are dealt with the coronavirus vaccine distribution. “We have seen probably the most rapid and profound innovations in controlled temperature technology,” she described the first trend. Two other tendencies are linked with the acceleration of acceptance of digital and cloud-based solutions as well as increased cross-industry mobilisation of technology supporting cold chain management processes. Earlier this requires years, now it is happening within months.

“There is a rise of digital transformation including the use of smart technology and data-driven applications. The pandemic has highlighted the value and the need for remote asset visibility,” Lissa D’Arcy explained the fourth trend. As for the fifth trend, it is dealt with the environment. “We have also seen a growing interest in demand for approaches that support environmental sustainability. For example, decarbonisation of energy production which is vital for the cold supply chain,” Emerson’s manager said.

Good Distribution Practice

Gulsah Metinoz, Business Development Manager at Thermo King, has dedicated her presentation to six pillars of the Good Distribution Practice protocol that have become more relevant in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first pillar is the multimodal solutions that include several modes of transport for delivering vaccine to the customers. “This is very critical to us because it allows us to offer an end-to-end solution for any type of distribution scenario,” Gulsah Metinoz said.

Another critical point, which is often mentioned when talking about the COVID vaccine, is the temperature. “Within the last six months, we have added a new capability in our product portfolio. It is the ultralow temperature containers branded as SuperFreezer. This is an alternative to using the dry ice,” the manager of Thermo King explained.

The third pillar, generator sets, is also dealt with temperature as it needs to maintain a temperature of the reefer container. A similar situation is with remote monitoring system, which is the fourth pillar. This solution also assists logistics providers and final customers to monitor the temperature. And the last two pillars are related to logistics activities, i.e. to the high-quality service network and regional stock availability. “As we want to reach each part of the world, it is important to have a toolbox with different alternatives,” Gulsah Metinoz summarised.

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