The corona pandemic forced vaccine manufacturers around the world to act very quickly in a very short period of time. To set up global distribution of corona vaccines in October 2020, consultant Lars van Grasstek worked on this assignment.

From scratch

This manufacturer needed a substantial expansion of capacity for corona vaccine distribution in addition to the manufacturing and distribution of its usual medical products, which had to be allowed to continue as usual. Lars: “We had to build everything from scratch. Among other things, a separate internal customer service team was set up in which a team of consultants was there to support.” Initially, distribution was set up from the manufacturer’s facility; after a few months, expansion was needed in the form of an additional distribution center in a neighboring European country. Lars: “We had to set-up global distribution, except for the United States, which had its own production and distribution system. The volumes involved were huge.” Lars was involved in planning all activities for shipments in Europe.

High scores OTIF

One of the challenges of this vaccine was that it had to be able to be shipped under specific quality and temperature requirements. Packaging had been chosen that met these requirements, and could also be monitored for quality. A special logger system was set up for this purpose that constantly monitored temperature, location and light in the shipments via satellite. A geo-fence allowed the departure and arrival of a shipment to be determined. Throughout the trip, the location of the shipment was transmitted to a system via satellite link. That way, it was possible to monitor where a shipment was at any time. Essential for effective monitoring.

Protocols

The consultant team also set up a series of protocols to handle any emergencies immediately. Lars: “What struck me was that the OTIF (the On-Time-In-Full delivery of the product), immediately reached very high scores. Of course we had a start-up period with slightly more error messages than normal, but these were quickly resolved. We had managed to set up a strong distribution network and formulate very tight protocols. Among other things, we were working with automated Golden Path processes.”

Retrospective

The project is still ongoing, especially with the coming winter and an expected revival of corona in sight. Lars: “However, distribution is now changing. After all, we are moving from pandemic to endemic: distribution is shifting from government locations to more regional locations such as drugstores and general practitioners. However, that change can be effortlessly accommodated with the existing system of distribution now.”

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