How Tracking and Monitoring Improved the Vaccine Transport?

Published by Mikaela Fernandez on

The Impact of COVID-19 on Logistics

When Covid-19 first emerged, the global freight shipping industry was temporarily paralyzed since it may serve as a portal for the disease to spread. However, the industry has since emerged with a new purpose and transformed processes. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about the need for digitalization of tracking and monitoring solutions, and the industry is rapidly adapting in order to comply with the current societal demands.

The transport of the Covid-19 vaccine is a huge undertaking. Aside from the restrictions brought about by the disease, the vaccine itself is susceptible to environmental excursions that can render it ineffective. Due to this, several concerns have been raised as to the ability and competency of the global cold chain to transport the vaccines effectively.

The Covid-19 vaccine has prompted rapid innovation in freight technology. Banking on emerging cold chain solutions and increasing interest in pharmaceutical logistics, companies have upgraded their GPS and temperature monitoring technologies for vaccine transport usage, among others. 

One of the major players in the pharmaceutical industry in charge of the shipment of millions of vaccines is UPS. Through a newly established 24/7 Healthcare Command Center, UPS is monitoring the doses through data collection from multiple channels. This includes placing tracking temperature sensors on both the exterior and interior of the vaccine packaging. Each of these sensors has a UPS-exclusive active tag which provides network visibility. This tag uses RFID technology which enables it to transmit location data to the Command Center. UPS has also created an internal software that has the ability to detect possible network disruptions and provide real-time countermeasures.

qr codes for tracking, and temperature monitoring of vaccines
Photo Credit: www.nbcnews.com

How Did Covid-19 Impact Freight Capacity?

Ocean Freight

In the first months of 2020, the total number of container volumes handled at Chinese ports reportedly dropped by 10.1 percent. The logistical constraints brought by the Covid-19 pandemic affected key exporters like Mexico, India, Brazil, and China. It also affected importers like the European Union. DHL notes that the low demand will impact the routes between Latin America, United States, Europe, and Asea.

tracking and monitoring for ocean freight
Photo credit: www.brngloballogistics.com/

Land Freight

As opposed to the ocean and air transport, land transport has remained partially in operation globally. The only exception is countries that were placed under heavy lockdowns. The trucking capacity experienced strains due to increased demands for food and medical supply transportation. The lockdown and limited employee availability due to the restrictions brought about by Covid-19 led to higher rates. Some economic sectors like manufacturing had constrained operations due to lockdowns. Due to this, spot road freight rates declined in specific markets. There was also an increase in the demand for rail services due to expensive air cargo freight rates, prolonged truck transit times, and blank sailings.

Airfreight

Since there was a steep decline in passenger flights and a reduction in manufacturing in China, air freight volumes declined by 19 percent last March 2020. Soon after, governments and shippers turned to air cargo for essential goods, which led to an increase in air freight rates. Due to this, the increased activity in airports caused delays in shipments. By Mid-April, there was an increase in air freight capacity and recovery in the transported volumes. Since the decreased capacity is higher than the demanded net reduction, the higher air freight rates are supported.

Tracking and Monitoring Solutions for Freight Shipping Industry

Logistics companies have been in the middle of a technology-driven revolution before the Covid-19 pandemic. In line with current societal demands, companies that have agile digital capabilities that display visibility/traceability during cargo shipment are at an advantage. Those who operate and conduct their business online have adapted easier to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. To ensure seamless operations in the freight shipping industry, investment in technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, automation, and data analytics are beneficial. The use of robotics, drones, and autonomous vehicles may also address labor shortages in the long term. 

Cloud-Based Technology

Using cloud technology enables companies to be more cost-efficient, competitive, and maximize time. It plays a huge role in handling, storing, and accessing data. The cloud technology approach is regarded for its simplicity. In order to access data stored in the cloud, only an internet connection is required, regardless of location or time. Through this, users are able to work more efficiently without the help of their colleagues or IT personnel. The cloud technology setup is also beneficial to employees who are working in a remote setup.

Since the data is centralized, it also prevents data silos caused by the existence and usage of different systems. Through the cloud, the data from various sources are interlinked, which can then be analyzed to gain further insights. With this, the time spent by employees searching for their needed or going through several applications is greatly reduced.

IT expenditures are also reduced greatly through the use of Cloud-based solutions. The company no longer has to deal with buying hardware and maintaining servers since the software vendor will be the one responsible for the mentioned tasks. The centralized data also allows better data evaluation and KPI computation. This is done through exporting data to software solutions or using other solutions that enable automatic transmission.

The use of cloud-based technology will transform the business process of shipping companies. Through cloud-based software and mobile apps, employees will have the ability to access the data they need using any device regardless of location. This will greatly help business operations, procurement, maintenance, and management, especially during the pandemic.

IoT 

The use of IoT (Internet of Things) has enabled companies to have better visibility and tracking and monitoring of their fleets. It first started with Electronic Logging Devices and has since expanded to include GPS tracking, trailer tracking and monitoring fuel efficiency, videos, and the cold chain. 

IoT is integrated into cold chain solutions for vaccine distribution and food and beverage, among others. This system is usually composed of environmental monitors that record temperate from -40°C to 60°C in real-time. Integration with other companies also enables remote monitoring and control.

Due to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the demand for a variety of remote monitoring solutions. The use of these technologies will ease vaccine transportation in far-flung areas.

Still, temperature monitoring is just a small part of the solution. Planning and handoffs in pickup and drop-off areas need to be taken into consideration in order to promptly deliver the vaccines despite the time and temperature constraints. Recording historical data temperature will also help researchers and staff to guarantee quality and general compliance. 

VR

The use of VR (virtual reality) glasses can be used to look at freight machinery. Through augmentation from equipment manuals and recorded data, information is easily made available with regard to the current status of the machinery. Due to the on-hand information, the crew is able to make an instant diagnosis of the problem and send images between the command center and the machinery for further expert analysis.  

Digital Twinning

Digital twinning is a digital replica of a physical entity. This allows a better understanding of a vessel or equipment’s performance. Smart sensors are integrated around the vessel and in the equipment. This collects data with regard to the status of operations. Through a cloud-based system that analyzes, stores, and receives data, combined with environmental data sets, these sensors provide better insights on the ship’s status and allow those on board to make better decisions. Over time, once the digital twins have been established and fully operationalized, human decisions can be automated as well to reassign manpower towards supporting ship operations.

digital twinning
Photo Credit: safety4sea.com

AKCP Monitoring Solutions

AKCP has over 30 years experience in sensor monitoring solutions and the world’s leader in sensor solutions.

AKCP offer a tracking and monitoring solution perfect for every need of vaccine freight transport. The system includes wireless sensors which can be installed into the trucks and vehicles. These sensors also acts as data logger that synchronizes with the AKCP Gateway when it returns to the depot. Temperature and GPS data could also monitored remote through AKCPro Pharma-Mon Server. The system also keep the operators updated with any fluctuation or potential threat during transit via sending SMS and Email.

Conclusion

Digitalization has been actively transforming the freight logistics sector. As a response to the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, companies have been relying on tracking and monitoring technologies and digitalized processes. This results in a heavier reliance on artificial intelligence and full utilization of available data. Currently, the world has yet to operate as to the way it did before the pandemic emerged. However, the use of technology enables support to daily operations that minimize the risks brought on by the pandemic. 

Reference Links:

https://www.freightwaves.com/news/how-covid-vaccine-transport-will-reshape-freight-tech

https://ascelibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1061/JTEPBS.0000418
https://pharma-mon.com/


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