Setting up the global COVID-19 vaccination distribution network 

The corona pandemic forced vaccine manufacturers around the world to act very quickly in a very short period of time.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, vaccine manufacturers around the world had to act quick. Lars van Grasstek was brought in as a consultant to help facilitate the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in October 2020. 

From scratch
All of a sudden, the manufacturer needed to significantly expand its capacity for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, while continuing to manufacture and distribute all of its other medication. Lars: ‘We had to build everything from scratch. One of the things we did was set up a separate internal customer service team with a team of consultants.’ At first, distribution was centred around the manufacturer’s own facility, but we were forced to expand to an additional distribution centre in a neighbouring European country after several months. Lars: ‘We produced and distributed vaccines for the entire world, apart from the United States, which had its own production and distribution. The volumes were enormous.’ Lars worked on the internal customer service activities for European shipments.

High OTIF scores
One of the challenges of shipping this vaccine was the set of highly specific quality requirements. Packaging had been chosen that met these stringent requirements and whose quality could easily be monitored. 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 made it possible to figure out when a shipment was dispatched and when it arrived. Throughout the trip, the location of the shipment was transmitted to a system via satellite link, making it possible to monitor the shipment at all times. Essential for effective monitoring.

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, scores were incredibly high right off the bat. We had slightly more error messages in the run-up, of course, but we managed to resolve them rather quickly. In the end, we succeeded in setting up a sound distribution process and came up with highly precise protocols. Our automated Golden Path processes helped make it all possible.’

Looking back
The project is still on-going, anticipating the resurgence of COVID-19 in the winter. Lars: ‘However, distribution is now changing. After all, COVID-19 has changed from pandemic to endemic, and distribution  has shifted from government facilities to more regional facilities such as pharmacies and general practitioners. Thanks to our current distribution system, that transition will be entirely effortless.’

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