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Supply Chain Industry Updates

Wonder What 2021 Will Bring? This Firm Has a Few Ideas

iStock/Dilok Klaisataporn

Story Highlights

  • Distributing a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 will require “herculean efforts beyond the actual vaccine development and approval,” ABI Research predicts.
  • Continuing supply chain “pinch points” will make a return to “normal” unlikely next year.

Ask most people what they expect in 2021 and you’ll get an answer that mixes cautious optimism with a dollop of “who the heck knows.”

Put the same question to someone from ABI Research and you’d better find a comfortable chair, because it’s going to take a while to process the full response. In fact, the technology market advisory firm released a report today on the “68 Technology Trends That Will Shape 2021.68!

“For success in 2021, especially after a very challenging 2020, one must understand fundamental trends early, and take a view on those trends that are buoyed by hyperbole and those that are sure to be uncomfortable realities,” said Stuart Carlaw, ABI chief research officer. “Now is the time to double down on the right technology investment.”

We all want to understand those fundamentals. But since we’re still busy just trying to put 2020 to bed, we’ll zero in on two of ABI’s prognostications that concern the supply chain.

The Big Chill

ABI says at least 857 temperature-controlled trucks will be leaving Pfizer and Moderna manufacturing facilities or distribution centers each month. Throw AstraZeneca into the mix and “these numbers will be materially increased. Distribution and delivery will continue to grow and get more complicated after the large urban and suburban areas are covered.” This will contribute to a “vaccine freezer frenzy,” ABI predicts.

As we all know, the vaccines will need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, but the containers needed to store and transport them currently are not plentiful. The distribution effort also will require an unprecedented level of cooperation among public- and private-sector entities. “The scale of technology, strategy and operations excellence needed will require transparency, flexibility and scale never seen, and will take herculean efforts beyond the actual vaccine development and approval,” Susan Beardslee, freight transportation and logistics principal analyst at ABI Research, pointed out in a statement.

No Return to ‘Normal’

This would be one of those “uncomfortable realities” that Carlaw mentioned.

Beardslee provided some background: “Although goods transportation has seen a promising rebound from the spring, pinch points continue, from driver shortages [back to 2018 levels] to container shortages and carrier bankruptcies due to increasing insurance costs and lower profits. Further digitization and integration of systems will provide greater visibility, flexibility and ROI to supply chain participants that can improve economic performance, but likely after 2021 on a broader scale.”

Want to know ABI’s 66 other predictions? Download the full report here.