Healthcare Logistics – Innovation & Invention
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, health and wellbeing have been at the forefront of the minds of individuals, corporations, and governments around the world. The global supply chain has faced huge challenges in capacity and congestion, and alongside these challenges there is an immense pressure on the MedTec supply chain to adapt and improve.
It has never been more important for medical and healthcare providers to have the ability to deliver the right product to those in need as fast, and efficiently as possible. The healthcare supply chain has had to meet demand like never before with little to no time to prepare. From providing unprecedented amounts of medical devices and equipment to the distribution of temperature-controlled vaccines all over the world, COVID-19 has further highlighted the undeniable importance of the supply chain.
But what steps had the industry taken prior to the pandemic in terms of healthcare innovation? And what can we expect to see in the future as we take learnings from the past 18 months forward? Here, we take a closer look at one of the fastest-developing and most crucial areas of the global supply chain.
Effective White Glove more valuable than ever
For a number of years, White Glove delivery solutions have played a major role in the advancement of the global supply chain. The added level of care and technical capabilities involved in White Glove delivery make it the highest level of service in logistics and it is something that has become essential to the medical and healthcare industry.
Due to the complexity and added sensitivity of the medical supply chain, in recent years highly specialized solutions have been developed to ensure the safe transportation and delivery of medical, surgical, diagnostic and imaging equipment, as well as, pharmaceutical products, clinical trials and samples. To maintain and raise the highest possible standards continued innovation has taken on even greater importance over the past 18 months.
At SEKO, we’ve met the increased demand for these services with developments of our own. Our specialized healthcare logistics resources are comprised of many different elements at the cutting edge of the industry. We focus on providing highly trained staff across 400 network teams, state of the art facilities, and a regional warehouse infrastructure and transport network, which means that ‘behind the scenes’ we have all the key elements in place. This is combined with technologies such as instant tracking, inventory management systems, and customized reports to provide a comprehensive medical supply solution.
However, despite the level of advancement we’d seen in this area of the logistics industry, at the start of 2020 the medical supply chain was met with its biggest challenge.
Innovation through COVID-19
As well-equipped and technically advanced as the medical supply chain has become in recent years, the coronavirus pandemic changed the landscape quickly and permanently. New solutions were required, and had to be created and implemented immediately, on a global scale.
The first challenge faced was an enormous surge in global demand for PPE, ventilators, and medicine, which meant fast, secure and trackable delivery was essential and there was no room for error. The next major development in the battle against the pandemic came when the first signs of an effective vaccine was developed, in December 2020.
This required a range of different elements mobilizing on a global scale to make the transportation and distribution of the vaccines possible. To strengthen the supply chain, we saw major investments in freezer farm capacity to enable to proper storage of the vaccines before distribution. There were also many companies, such as our partners at Pelican BioThermal, that began retrofitting equipment to accommodate vaccine storage requirements – minus 80-degree Celsius – of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which was another huge undertaking.
In light of the challenges faced and the level of innovation seen in such a short period of time, there’s no doubt that there is more to come in terms of strengthening the medical and healthcare supply chain.
The Future of Healthcare Logistics
The logistics industry continues to develop and innovate at speed, and this has only been further enhanced by the medical emergency over the past 18 months. Looking ahead to the future, there are a number of key innovations that will likely become firmly entrenched across the global supply chain in years to come.
One area we are already seeing have an influence is Artificial Intelligence (AI). The ability to automate time-consuming processes has been crucial throughout the pandemic; not only within the warehousing operations but also on the road. In the warehouse, we are already seeing robots being widely used to locate and distribute inventories, while out on the road, AI can influence logistics route optimization to reduce time and cost.
Further automation may become commonplace across the crucial last mile of delivery. With access to medical supplies in remote regions a clear hurdle for the last mile, it might not be long before aerial drone technology is utilized to enable faster, cheaper last mile delivery to remote locations.
More broadly, the digitization of the supply chain is going to be a potentially game-changing factor for the industry. Supply chains are typically linear in nature, moving from design through to delivery, but with interconnectivity creating online ecosystems that include partners such as health care providers or pharmaceutical companies, it’s possible to create a fully virtual supply chain which mirrors the physical one. This will offer data, tracking, and visibility opportunities which haven’t been seen before and that will, in turn, transform efficiency and accessibility.
Despite the challenges of the last year and a half, there are exciting and fascinating times ahead as the logistics industry continues to develop. We aim to be at the forefront of this innovation across all our services, and we will continue to offer insight via our Knowledge Hub.