It’s the supply chain, stupid!

A polemical “analysis” of the vaccination supply chain with a surprising insight

Sometimes special events help to recognize how important professional supply chain management is. Industry and trade have had to experience this time and again during the months of the coronavirus pandemic and have coped with it to some extent. The EU Commission and the German government are currently providing a particularly drastic example of poor supply chain management, although there is much to suggest that the situation is no better in most other European countries.

The lack of vaccine doses, at least in the first quarter, has probably caused greater, possibly irreparable damage to the EU’s image among its approx. 450 million customers (= citizens) than any other EU decision (Weak points 1-3The company’s supply capability was messed up; purchasing paid too much attention to procurement prices instead of focusing on total costs of ownership; too little SCM expertise at the top management level and therefore underestimated the strategic importance of supply chain management).

Despite the small quantities of vaccines, German administrations seem overwhelmed with the task of distributing them quickly and getting them into the arms of customers(weakness 4: failure to meet deadlines)

There does not appear to be sufficiently coordinated planning across the entire vaccination supply chain from the federal government to the vaccination centers and doctors(weaknesses 5 and 6: no central planning; proven supply chains, in this case for medicines, ignored). The number of administrative rules to be considered, from data protection to the question of whether a vaccinating doctor at a vaccination center may instruct a pharmacist there to draw more vaccine doses from a jar, is so large that no one can keep track of them (Weak points 7-9(no lean processes; no lean management; no adaptation of procedural instructions to the changing situation). All it takes is for one of the many department heads in the long process chain of the vaccination supply chain to make a mistake or narrow-mindedly insist on a nonsensical procedural instruction to disrupt the process(weaknesses 10 and 11: no central management competence in a critical supply situation; “over the wall approach” instead of a troubleshooting culture).

Every vaccination center, every health authority does what it wants and there seems to be little willingness to learn from the more efficient ones(weaknesses 12 and 13: no benchmarking of supply chain management; no CIP).

The situation continues with customer order entry: servers for vaccination appointment allocation are overloaded; vaccination figures are delayed or not reported correctly; too many receipts and these are also on paper(weak point 14: drastic backlog in digitization). One year after the start of the pandemic, many public health departments are still working with faxes(weakness 15: Overly far-reaching consensus culture instead of pushing through necessary measures in the face of a disruptive situation).

Malice, anger and know-it-all attitude are sometimes good for the soul. However, they should not obscure the fact that the 15 weaknesses identified also apply one-to-one to many companies…

Image by Tumisu on Pixabay

Picture of Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

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