Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (December 11, 2020)

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Moving on, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

The Logistics of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

The first time I remember logistics and distribution getting a lot of attention in the public’s eye was back in July 2000:

“In an agreement [with FedEx] almost certain to produce the largest distribution event to date of any single item in e-commerce, Amazon.com is offering complimentary Saturday shipping upgrades to the first 250,000 Harry Potter Book IV orders placed via the Amazon.com Web site…FedEx will mobilize more than 9,000 delivery personnel and vehicles from more than 700 stations covering the continental United States and about 100 regularly scheduled FedEx flights to deliver the highly anticipated Harry Potter Book IV to eagerly waiting fans on Saturday, July 8 — the first day the book is available to the public.”

Fast forward 20 years and a new “largest distribution event to date” is unfolding — that is, the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, which began this week in the UK. As reported in the Wall Street Journal this week:

Workers at the Pfizer Inc. plant in Puurs, Belgium, loaded thousands of vials of the liquid, stored at nearly 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, into custom-made thermally protected shipping containers and packed with dry ice. Loaded onto anonymous trucks, they crossed 125 miles to the French coast and sped by train under the English Channel. By Thursday evening, three trucks were heading across the U.K. and a fourth was crossing the Irish Sea.

The article goes on to explain all of the challenges involved, including keeping the vaccines at -94 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the journey and preventing shipments from getting hijacked:

Each [packaging unit] contains a device about the size of a cellphone that functions as a thermal sensor and GPS monitor, and can even tell if the box is opened. It feeds information to a Pfizer control center, allowing the company to make sure the shipment is sticking to its planned route and maintaining its required temperature. An alert is triggered if the driver deviates from the route, even for a rest stop.

What it took to distribute those Harry Potter books in July 2000 happens almost on a daily basis today, especially this year with the surge in e-commerce. The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is much more complex and getting it right is much more important. The world is literally watching. This is yet another example of how everything can go right at the front-end (in this case, the speedy development and approval of vaccines) but can still fall apart at the backend if logistics and distribution processes aren’t planned and executed properly.                                                  

Brexit: “No Deal” is “Strong Possibility”

As reported by the BBC this morning, “Boris Johnson says there is a ‘strong possibility’ the UK will fail to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. Speaking for the first time since a crunch meeting in Brussels, the PM said ‘now is the time’ for firms and people to prepare for a no deal outcome.”

Actually, the time to start preparing for a “no deal” outcome was at least 11 months ago when the UK officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020.

While COVID-19 dominates the headlines, what happens between today and December 31 with Brexit negotiations is the news to watch if you’re involved with global trade. Stay tuned.

In Technology News: BluJay Solutions and E2open

BluJay Solutions (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced the release of version 21.0 of its transportation, distribution, and compliance software applications. Here are some of the enhancements according to the press release:

Expanded offerings for shippers and carriers – BluJay’s newly redesigned Procurement Tool has a brand-new UI and improved user experience to streamline use for all parties interacting with the tool. In the Transportation Management for Shippers application, API integration connectivity offers BluJay partners scalability and ease of implementation along with increased and/or net-new support for Distance API, Payable Rating API, Billable Rating API, and Spot Quote APIs. These improved data interchange workflows help ensure streamlined interaction with the TMS for all parties. Further, BluJay has bolstered international shipping support with value-added partners including PTV as a distance engine provider, PC*MILER Worldwide, as well as support for increased tracking workflows internationally with project44.

Yard management for the times – BluJay has implemented Driver Gate in a mobile app, allowing drivers to perform contactless gate-in completely from their phones. In addition, Yard Management’s Graphical Yard Overview provides users the ability to execute yard activities with the ease of drag-and-drop to perform gate-in as well as create moves for equipment from one parking location to another, from parking to dock, and from dock to parking.

Enhanced user experience for Parcel – BluJay Parcel now offers a new user interface with a redesigned layout and modern design for customer ease of use in key operations. The new UI functionality supports US-origin domestic transactions including rating, shipping, and rate shopping, and enables users to configure customized screens. Track & Trace has support for additional carriers and new reporting capabilities.

Meanwhile, E2open and Shippeo, a real-time transportation visibility (RTTV) provider based in Europe, announced a partnership “to interconnect their networks and accelerate value creation for their clients.” Here are some excerpts from the press release:

Through its multi-enterprise business network, E2open connects clients with all tiers of channel, supplier, logistics and global trade ecosystem partners to make better decisions and orchestrate global supply chains across industries. E2open’s carrier network includes all modes of transport in all regions, including visibility into more than 40% of the global ocean freight volume. With Europe’s fastest-growing carrier network, Shippeo tracks more than 10 million shipments in 70 countries across multiple industries, including manufacturing, retail and logistics service providers. The seamless integration of Shippeo’s network with E2open’s network and applications will provide ultra-accurate real-time over-the-road transportation visibility for complex and mission-critical logistics operations, with a strong focus on data quality, timeliness and granularity down to the SKU level.

Ongoing innovation and partnerships: it’s what keeps supply chain and logistics technology providers moving forward.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Post Humorous” by Gus Dapperton