Apr 28, 2021

United Nations’ supply chain offers India COVID-19 support

Sam Steers
3 min
Courtesy of Getty Images
The United Nations’ integrated supply chain has offered assistance to India in managing the surge of COVID-19 in the country...

The United Nations has offered the support of its integrated supply chain to India to help it manage the surge in COVID-19 across the country.

The UN has remained in contact with government officials in India to ensure the situation is closely monitored, the organisation said. 

Speaking of the relationship with the Indian government, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Chief, said: “We’ve been in touch at various levels.

“I know that our Chef de Cabinet was recently in touch with the Permanent Representative of India here, and other officials in the system have also been in touch with officials both here in New York and on the ground,” Haq said. 

Haq also stated that the UN would provide the support of the supply chain “if it was needed” but that it is not needed at the moment due to India’s “reasonably robust system” to deal with the virus. 

However, Haq made it clear that the UN’s offer “still stands” and that “we are willing to help in whatever way we can,” he said. 

According to the Deputy Spokesman, the United Nations is also ensuring its staff are well cared for, whether they are national or international. 

This is so that “they don’t place a burden on India’s healthcare system,” Haq said. 

He also is thankful that the number of cases is under control for the time being. 

He said: “Luckily, we’ve maintained a very low level of cases. So, we have, I think, been succeeding at trying to do that and making sure that we’re not pressuring a healthcare system that already is facing extreme challenges.”

Currently, no shipments of essential materials from the UN are expected to be sent to India, however, Haq said that the UN “does have people who deal with logistics who are willing to help if needed.”

During a press conference held yesterday, Haq reassured people that the UN is fully prepared to help India deal with the crisis, saying: UN entities have been training health workers, including 10,000 nurses through UN Women initiatives.

“The team has also partnered with employers’ and workers’ organisations to promote jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities,” he said. 

The UN also set up eleven helpdesks and on-site counselling activities on preventing COVID-19 through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The collaboration has reportedly benefited over 140,000 employees. 

In addition, the UN Industrial Development Organisation also created an online platform to help companies through the crisis, which specifically aimed at smaller organisations. 

Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation has provided access to social security measures for over 100,000 self-employed workers. 

However, Haq pointed out that the crisis will only come to an end if it is defeated globally. 

He said: “At this stage, one of the lessons that must be clear is that until the COVID-19 pandemic is essentially confronted and defeated in every country, it won’t be solved for any country.

“Although there are different places that are thankfully making progress with measures, including vaccinations or local quarantines or other different precautions, we have to remain vigilant,” he said.

Haq added: “Nations have to cooperate with each other to make sure that COVID-19 can be defeated in every nation because you can always get areas, different countries or different variant strains, that can, again, cause a huge problem, not just for one nation but for regions and, ultimately, for the world.”

The President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, echoes Haq’s concerns about the pandemic, saying in a tweet: “It’s time for the world to extend aid and support to India. 

“No one’s safe until we’re all safe,” he said. 

Mr Bozkir concluded by saying his thoughts are with the people of India at this time. 

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Jun 11, 2021

NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience

6 min
Joey Dean, Managing Director of healthcare consulting at NTT DATA Services, shares remodelling strategies for more resilient supply chains

Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.

The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.

A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach

“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.

“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.

But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?

“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.

Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes

So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry

“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality. 

“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”

Evolving Procurement Models 

From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view. 

“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.

“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”

“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”

But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?

“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.

The Challenges

These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.

On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”

He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”

As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”


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