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BioCommunique Article

Understand how the global supply chain has been impacted, how this affects life science equipment supplies, and how to manage any disruptions to your business.

6 Key Takeaways from Biocom’s Life Science Supply Chain Impacts Webinar

  • 2020-06-19T19:00:00.000+0000
  • California
  • Author: Lauren Panetta

Recently, Biocom hosted a webinar with our Biocom Purchasing Group suppliers Thermo Fisher Scientific and FedEx to better understand supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and how they could be impacting the life sciences. Jerry Beyl, Vice President at FedEx Services, and Leon Wyszkowski, President of Commercial Operations for Pharma Services at Thermo Fisher Scientific talked through the challenges brought on by the spread of COVID-19 from both a shipping and a pharmaceutical services standpoint.

As resources such as fuel, transportation, and personnel required to move goods and services have become increasingly more difficult to access or mobilize during this time, the speakers discussed how businesses can overcome these disruptions and better plan for issues that might arise in the weeks and months to come. To give you a glimpse into the discussion, here are six key takeaways we learned.

1. When China is impacted, a massive snowball effect can be felt across the global supply chain

On January 23, 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province was effectively sealed off, severely reducing or eliminating industrial production and transportation. Wuhan and the Hubei Province known as the “thoroughfare of China” is one of the most industrialized areas in China. With the shutdown of this major transport and manufacturing hub, a trickledown effect has occurred, affecting critical supply chains.

2. Forecasting shipping needs in advance is essential for suppliers

Accurate and early forecasting of the volume of shipping needed weeks or months ahead is incredibly helpful when it comes to supply chain management. Having an understanding of demand forecasting means knowing the current and projected demand by industry and product end-use. Supply forecasting, collecting data about the current producers and suppliers, is also helpful. Forecasting in these two areas helps predict shipping needs and in turn, assists in sizing the network and labor needed.

3. Shipping carriers have been forced to add several new flights to make up for lost shipping capacity

With commercial flights into Asia virtually stopped, major shipping providers including FedEx, UPS, and DHL have all been affected. These international shipping carriers depend on using the belly space within planes flying commercially to move product from region to region. With the elimination of this option, FedEx added 96 additional flights in April to compensate for their regular flight schedule of 210 monthly flights.

4. Air transport is being largely dominated by the shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE)

In addition to lost space due to the decreased number of commercial flights, PPE leaving China now accounts for more than 80% of FedEx’s air transport volume to both the U.S. and Europe. Because of this, FedEx has added hundreds of additional non-scheduled flights between China, the U.S., and Europe. PPE distribution was historically moved via Ocean Carriers but once COVID-19 spread to Europe and the U.S., PPE distribution immediately shifted to air transportation due to low inventory levels and increased demand. In May, FedEx will be launching 28 additional chargers and 47 additional flights in order to clear PPE volume that exists in China.

5. Accelerating innovation through continued investment in your business is critical

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create elements of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to find ways to innovate by investing in your business. Investments will not only better prepare your business for a bright future once we are beyond the pandemic, but are crucial to address the future needs of your customers. Thermo Fisher has committed to expanding innovation and capabilities from development to commercial in three key strategic areas: 1) Biologics Development and Manufacturing, 2) Cell and Gene Therapy Capabilities, and 3) Drug Product Development & Commercial Capabilities. Through these strategic investments, they are accelerating the speed to market for biologics and enabling customers to effectively manage uncertainty and risks as they scale up. Additionally, with a growing pipeline of both traditional and regenerative biopharmaceutical drugs and increasing cadence of approvals for novel biologics and therapies, there is a need for readily available solutions that will translate the promise of a remarkable discovery into a successful therapy. Thermo Fisher's support of the global COVID-19 response continues to expand, with their Pharma Services business working with our customers on the development of therapies and vaccines. To date, Thermo Fisher has approximately 100 projects in their pipeline with the public sector, pharmaceutical and academic customers.

6. Embrace the adoption of digital technologies—for now, and beyond the pandemic—to maximize productivity

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting enormous challenges for companies around the world, in every industry. Travel restrictions and limitations on employee interactions are making business as usual a thing of the past, for now. By embracing technologies, we can connect with colleagues and customers in new virtual ways and ensure business continuity. As an example, Thermo Fisher is using their VR and AR technologies, which had begun transforming employee training well before the pandemic began, to provide new solutions in the current crisis. They’ve been developing a range of services including interactive telepresence functionality, remote-assist technologies, and virtual tours. These technologies have not only been beneficial during these times where physical distancing is required, but, beyond the pandemic, they will create new opportunities for agility, flexibility, and cost reduction at their sites. To maintain productivity throughout this time and into the future, think creatively about how your business can operate more efficiently and digitalize processes as much as possible.