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How Technology Is Used for Vaccine Supply Chains

The COVID-19 vaccine has brought hope to many around the world, but the slow rollout of the vaccine also shed light on many problems within the vaccine supply chain. Part of the problem is that there are many factors involved in keeping the vaccine in good shape for distribution.

Vaccine supply chains require good stock control practices, which includes recording vital information about the vaccines when they are received, stored, and distributed. It is also important that vaccine supply chains have proper temperature monitoring. Keeping vaccines at the right temperatures prevents large quantities from being destroyed and wasted. Furthermore, vaccine distribution and transportation practices should be managed. All conditions for vaccine environment must be met while in storage and during shipping.

To solve this problem and create more effective and efficient vaccine supply chain, many companies are turning towards technology.

The Use of Digital Supply Chains

As the world continues to go digital, your company will need to tap into new technologies to remain competitive. Digital supply chains have become the key to a well-managed operation. They improve efficiencies and optimize costs, allowing your company to better serve customers, anticipate and prepare for potential problems, and improve overall performance.

Internet of Things

An extremely useful tool for the digitization of supply chains and for vaccine distribution is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is a collection of physical devices that can monitor, report, and exchange data. IoT devices can use sensors to record data about their surrounding context including location, temperature, light levels, movement, and much more through RFID chips, smart devices, and mobile sensors. In the vaccine supply chain, IoT devices can effectively track and authenticate vaccine shipments. Additionally, by having the shipments constantly monitored quality management can be enhanced. In the vaccine supply chain, IoT technology is being used by Cloudleaf and CSafe as part of a “digital visibility platform” used for shipments that require a cold chain. Containers in this cold chain each have an IoT sensor that feeds information about temperature, shock, vibration, or humidity in the container to a single database in real time.

Blockchain

Blockchain is a technology originally created to support the transaction of cryptocurrency. However, its ability to publicly verify, record, and distribute transactions can be used to enhance the effectiveness of many businesses. In the vaccine supply chain, blockchain is able to create and coordinate a common record. All data including, location data, handling data, and time stamps can be recorded and accessed with ease. IBM is using this technology as part of an “open vaccine management platform” to help the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. Based on results from their simulated pilot, IBM estimates that users can be notified of affected products in a few seconds rather than three days.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the new frontier for many industries. AI, the simulation of human intelligence and action in machines, has the potential to drastically improve supply chains and logistics operations, specifically in planning, scheduling, forecasting, and analytics. Around 61% of manufacturing executives reported decreased costs and 53% reported increased revenues as a result of incorporating AI into their supply chains. When AI is used in conjunction with IoT and blockchain technology, companies will not only have important data updated in real-time but also obtain actionable analytical insights. Booz Allen’s COVID-19 Vaccination Workforce Simulator demonstrates how useful AI can be as part of the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. The tool helps state and local health departments determine the need for medical professionals and clerical workers at different vaccination sites based on vaccine distribution and availability.

These technologies can help enhance your company’s vaccine supply chain efficiency. With COVID-19 emphasizing the need for more streamlined, effective supply chains, it is more important than ever to re-evaluate your company’s logistical planning. Clarkston offers digital supply chain consulting services that can help you strategically and seamlessly implement new technology into your supply chain and supply chain management.

Digital Supply Chain Management Systems (DSCMS)

In order to properly manage a digital supply chain, companies use digital supply chain management systems (DSCMS). DSCMS offers many benefits that improve resilience and efficiency of supply chains. They allow for the integration of data across all stakeholders, the collection of data in real-time for better monitoring, and the sharing of data through secure means.

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Coauthor and contributions by Maggie Wong

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