IndustriesHealthcare & Life Sciences

Addressing the data imperatives of COVID-19 vaccine logistics

Collaboration, communication, and control

The Life Sciences supply chain continues to face significant challenges as we manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The sheer scale and pace of COVID-19 vaccine distribution has never been seen before. For the transportation of drugs such as the Pfizer vaccine, where effective temperature control remains a vital concern, Life Sciences supply chains must enable granular visibility and management of shipments as they pass through each link in the chain. 

RFID, IoT and emerging digital technologies 

Introducing visibility down to a pallet, package or individual product layer is becoming increasingly possible with the development and maturing of RFID and IoT technologies. These technologies have become a major part of initiatives to meet the track and trace, monitoring and licensing requirements of regulations such as the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). These are precisely the capabilities required to enable COVID-19 vaccine distribution. 

Supply Chain Brain believes that cold chain tracking and IoT are vital to the success of COVID-19 vaccine logistics:

“Blockchain, cloud storage, and technology-enabled tracking and monitoring sensors provide real-time visibility into temperature changes — and an opportunity to intervene before damage is done. Without sensors, there’s no understanding of what happens to the temperature once the pharmaceutical materials leave the labs or manufacturing facilities.” 

IoT is only part of the answer 

Gartner has examined the industries with the most IoT endpoints in 2020 and neither Life Sciences nor transport and logistics appear in the top eight. It’s instructive to note that the sector leading Industry 4.0 adoption – automotive – has only 36% of companies adopting the technologies. 

Where IoT and other new digital technologies have the potential to deliver on the data imperatives, the reality today is that there has to be a great deal of work undertaken at breakneck speed to reach the levels required. That work covers not only the rapid implementation of IoT devices but also an effective way to handle the huge amount of data coming from IoT endpoints. 

The emergence of identity-centric IoT platforms has enabled organizations to gain much greater and secure control of the many forms of IoT data they have to manage. However, this must be integrated with advanced AI and analytics that can gain real time insight into how every element of the supply chain is functioning. 

These new digital technologies are an essential component of delivering effective information flows but it’s a little too easy to be seduced into thinking they’re a panacea. 

Building on existing B2B capabilities 

A couple of years back, an academic report looking specifically at the cold chain for vaccine distribution stressed the need to apply new technologies but pointed out: “Introduction of technology can support data collection, but also, in turn, requires data to work efficiently. This implies that any new technology will make information management more complex, and requires systems that facilitate and foster information sharing.” 

For many organizations, the backbone of these enterprise information systems is already in place. Both Life Sciences and logistics have invested heavily in developing B2B capabilities to enable digital business with trading partners. This has grown into mature, global platforms – such as OpenText™ Business Network – for secure collaboration, communication and information sharing across the digital ecosystems that are modern supply chains.  

If we take OpenText Business Network as an example, it already has the management and data integration capabilities embedded to incorporate IoT and other digital technologies into existing B2B capabilities. Perhaps of greater significance, it also allows supply chain visibility and granular control by exploiting the data created in day-to-day B2B transactions. 

Looking at supply chain resilience in the face of COVID-19, the World Economic Forum set out how harnessing and analyzing order management data can improve supply chain performance, by providing visibility into: 

  • How much of a product, or vaccine, has been ordered 
  • How much of what is needed is being manufactured 
  • How much is in transit and where it is on its journey 
  • Whether the amount of product, or vaccine, ordered matches the amount of people who need it 

By building upon existing B2B capabilities, organizations can smoothly extend their capabilities in IoT and digital technologies such as Blockchain to meet the data imperatives in creating effective vaccine supply chains that can address the current crisis and the next. 

To learn more about the services that OpenText delivers to the Life Science supply chain, please visit our website

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Ferdi Steinmann

Nearly 25 years of experience in driving strategy & commercialization efforts in Biotech & Pharma with an exclusive focus in Life Sciences (LS) strategic planning and industry marketing efforts for enterprise software solutions. Today I am responsible for the LS global industry strategy development at OpenText. I am energized by strategies that deliver on their promises

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