IBM Thinks Smarter Supply Chain
A century of experience in the business has a way of getting into a company’s DNA, allowing them to plan broadly and get out ahead of industry trends. IBM’s illustrious history is anything but just that – it’s a continuously improving entity that has remained modern as the world has changed.
“We’re different from our competitors in the industry in that we’ve had to evolve and transform ourselves so many times during our history,” says Mike Ray, Vice President of Supply Chain Business Integration & Strategy. “Like many that have been around that long, we’ve had to change the way we look at ourselves.”
Given the fact that history seems to have been accelerating lately – with the introduction of a truly integrated digital age – it’s only natural that for IBM, “the last twenty years have been the most transformative.”
As their competitors scramble to bring their supply chains into the 21st century – and suffer the losses when they don’t – IBM has already been there for a while. As a long-time fully-integrated global concern, they’re not just leading the way; they’re making it.
It’s not as simple as it may seem. But given their dedication to maintaining their standard-setting fulfillment record, they’ve had to learn on the fly – and teach it too.
“Some people think of integration as a geographic thing,” notes Ray. “While that is a critical piece of it – and we are fully integrated geographically – it’s as much an integration of processes as it is of geography.”
That means having diversification strategies that can help avoid the fallout from natural disasters, while maintaining a lean and nimble execution strategy.
History may be on their side, but the real reason IBM has never dropped the ball is because they’ve been running with it.
DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID
Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.
This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go.
With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”.
Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats.
In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.
“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come”.
How Do We Sustain Immunisation?
By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”.
Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared.
Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.