Since the outset of COVID-19 healthcare supply chains have undergone some massive overhauls. They have been pushed to become more efficient, altered to account for higher demands despite smaller workforces, and rushed to get life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccines, and other life-saving medication and equipment to the marketplace.
Many of these challenges will still be present moving forward, and it’s up to manufacturers, shippers, carriers, and all other links in the supply chain to further alter their processes in order to account for newly rising challenges.
As we move through (and beyond) the COVID-19 pandemic, these are some of the challenges facing the bio-medical supply chain and how these entities can prime themselves to confront them.
Influence of other countries
Pharmaceutical supply chains are notoriously limited in their sourcing of materials. Over 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients come from overseas, leaving these supply chains at the whim of global politics, laws and regulations in other countries, overseas shipping routes, and many other factors that are completely out of their control. This has put a strain on the supply chain for manufacturers who are clamoring for the necessary supplies they need to create their products. Although these foreign supply chains are low cost, they pose inevitably high risks to supply chains that are so reliant upon them.
It’s time to diversify
Even in stable times, diversifying a supply chain is highly recommended. Those who place all their stock in a single source may simplify their supply chain, but they ultimately leave themselves at risk of complete shutdown due to unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances. Working with multiple suppliers in different locations both in and outside the U.S. is a secure pathway towards more stable and reliable supply chains for manufacturers, in all industries.
COVID is still taking a significant number of people out of the workforce. Every positive case takes an employee out of a warehouse, manufacturing facility, and distribution site for more than a week, and it forces other employees to often quarantine to prevent the further spread of the virus. Not even truckers are immune from the effects of the virus. The USPS was short more than 14,000 carriers this past holiday season due to quarantine, and driver shortages for both short and long-haul trucking companies persist even in the New Year. The issue is described as so major by some carriers that the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is testing a pilot program that would allow those 18 years and older to enter the industry and drive.
Maintain multiple carrier relationships
With capacity tightening as shipments rise and carrier shortages persist, it’s crucial for shippers and manufacturers to maintain a range of relationships with multiple carriers in order to ensure they have the necessary means to move their products. Working with a 3rd party logistics (3PL) provider can also help in this regard. 3PLs often partner with large fleets of carriers, allowing them to tap into their resources to keep their clients’ supply chains moving.
Cold storage and shipping
Vaccines, medications, food, and so much more are reliant upon cold storage and refrigerated trucking. As the demand for cold storage heats up, several issues have risen to the forefront:
- Capacity is tightening, especially as vaccine rollouts happen across the country
- Facilities are aging. About 78 percent of current cold storage warehouses are more than 20 years old, and many of them are ill-equipped to handle modern products.
- Tightening trucking capacity means products are left sitting in warehouses, which poses the risk of tightening warehouse capacity even further.
To prevent products from spoiling, warehouses and distribution facilities need to ensure they have the carriers able to take their shipments and the warehousing space/equipment necessary to store additional products.
Increasing warehousing capacity and efficiency
In order to quickly move older products out of warehouses, and to increase capacity for newly manufactured products to take their place, warehouses need to look towards optimization in two major areas:
- Carrier scheduling and selection
- Loading optimization
When working with limited staff within warehouses, loading optimization becomes an important way to reduce dock congestion at facilities. Not only does congestion slow down shipments, it can also be a deterrent for some carriers to accept loads at slower facilities. With shipments increasing and carrier capacity tightening, this gives carriers the ability to pick and choose which loads to accept, and slower facilities may be left with limited ways to ship their products.
Consider outsourcing warehousing operations
Outsourcing a portion or even all temperature-controlled warehousing operations to a 3PL has many benefits:
- Increased capacity
- Pick pack and ship services
- Reduced dock congestion
- Access to a reliable fleet of carriers
- Up-to-date facilities that utilize the latest technology and systems
- No maintenance costs for facilities
It is often better to remove the burden of warehousing to a company who specializes in the services. At King Solutions, we provide top-tier medical warehousing the includes proper handling and regulatory oversight of all products. Ready to talk about your climate-controlled warehousing needs? Get in touch with us today.