Feb 5, 2021

Vaccinating the globe demands global coordination

ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, ...
3 min
The COVID-19 vaccination effort requires global thinking from supply chain professionals who are experts at tackling the challenges facing this global task
The COVID-19 vaccination effort requires global thinking from supply chain professionals who are experts at tackling the challenges facing this global t...

Supply chains are weathering the extreme strain of a pandemic, geopolitical shifts, climate change and more. Now, the vaccination effort has them in the spotlight once again.

The greatest vaccination effort in history relies on successful delivery of billions of vaccines to myriad distribution sites while shoring up the supply of shots, masks, personal protective equipment, syringes, vials, dry ice and other cooling equipment to transport millions of doses. For the undertaking to succeed, supply chain professionals must be in the room. 

Operation Warp Speed was an extraordinary accomplishment, but we didn’t spend the same amount of time and effort addressing last-mile concerns. Vaccinating the world begins with the complete integration of factory workers, ultracold freezers, data scientists, truck drivers, pilots, dry ice, and healthcare workers all converging simultaneously at thousands of locations. It’s time for the experts to identify the demand; pinpoint the manufacturing capacity and asset management efficiency; ensure effective material flow, as well as information flow among stakeholders; and communicate what will be required for effective distribution. This is what supply chain professionals do each and every day.

“The only way to counteract a global pandemic is with a global response"

At the same time, we all must realise that the challenges associated with COVID-19 and getting people vaccinated are not unique to any particular area; they are pervasive problems to be solved. Therefore, we need to have broader conversations with those representing both public and private enterprises about consistency and accessibility in regions and populations that have been traditionally underserved. These people are facing significant challenges. And it’s in our own best interest to help them overcome them and get the world vaccinated. The only way to counteract a global pandemic is with a global response. 

Supply chain professionals also have the expertise to put together a fact-based, data-driven plan — and execute it. The strategy requires unparalleled visibility and data transparency among all trading partners relative to capabilities and capacities. Information-sharing and global data standardisation will enable the shift from putting out fires to predicting them. Meanwhile, enhanced visibility can be achieved by taking a more proactive approach to digital supply chain and fully integrated, end-to-end networks. 

There also must be clear and actionable data about COVID testing capacity and vaccination delivery. We currently have an acute problem of hospitals being overwhelmed, and it’s only going to get worse as we race against emerging virus strains. Supply chain professionals can explore alternate vaccination sites while ensuring higher throughput. They can design the necessary processes and identify locations that will be able to deliver, whether that’s clinics, pharmacies, convention centers, stadiums or something else altogether. 

Lessons learned from the supply chain disruptions of 2020 must now be absorbed and applied to the vaccine distribution effort. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. But when we work together, we can address critical global challenges, achieve brighter futures and create a better world through supply chain.

 Abe Eshkenazi is CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the world's largest non-profit association for supply chain

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Jun 21, 2021

Elon Musk's Boring Co. planning wider tunnels for freight

2 min
Elon Musk’s tunnelling firm plans underground freight tunnels with shipping containers moved on “battery-powered freight carriers”, according to reports

Elon Musk’s drilling outfit The Boring Company could be shifting its focus towards subterranean freight and logistics solutions, according to reports. 

A Boring Co. pitch deck seen and shared by Bloomberg depicts plans to construct wider tunnels designed to accommodate shipping containers. 

Founded by Tesla CEO Musk in 2016, the company initially stated its mission was to offer safer, faster point-to-point transport for people, particularly in cities plagued by traffic congestion. It also planned longer tunnels to ferry passengers between popular destinations across the US. 

The Boring Co. completed its first commercial project earlier this year in April. The 1.7m tunnel system is designed to move professionals between convention centres in Las Vegas using Tesla EVs. It says the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop can cut travel time between venues from 45 minutes to just two. 


Boring Co.'s new freight tunnels

The Boring Co.'s new tunnel designs would allow freight to be transported on purpose built platforms, labelled as “battery-powered freight carriers”. The document shows that, though the containers could technically fit within its current 12-foot tunnels, wider tunnels would be more efficient. Designs for a new tunnel, 21 feet in diameter, show that they can comfortably accommodate two containers side-by-side, with a one-foot gap between them.

The Boring Co.’s new drilling machine, dubbed Prufrock, can tunnel at a rate of one mile per week, which is six times faster than its previous machine, and is designed to ‘porpoise’ - mimicking the marine animal by ‘diving’ below ground and reemerging once the tunnel is complete. 

Tesla’s supply chain woes 

Tesla is facing its own supply chain and logistic issues. The EV manufacturer has raised the price of its vehicles, with CEO Musk confirming the incremental hike was a result of “major supply chain pressure”. Musk replied to a disgruntled Twitter user, confused as to why prices were rising while features were being removed from the cars, saying the “raw materials especially” were a big issue. 

Elon Musk Tweet

Car manufacturing continues to be one of the industries hit hardest by a global shortage in semiconductor chips. While China’s chip manufacturing levels hit an all-time high in May, and the US is proposing a 25% tax credit for chip manufacturers, demand still outstrips supply. Automakers including Volkswagen and Audi have again said they expect reduced vehicle output in the next quarter due to a lack of semiconductors, with more factory downtime likely

Top Image credit: The Boring Company / @boringcompany

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