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From COVID to Coca-Cola: Analyzing Distribution Models

Photo: Courtesy of Anastasiia Chepinska

With the recent release of COVID-19 vaccines, there has been much debate around the success of the strategy (or lack thereof) currently in place.

The potential complications and sheer scale of the distribution process are immense — from distribution and storage requirements, to effective dosages and the ability to track and reach all populations, along with many other variables.  

As governments work to redefine a supply chain strategy that will effectively meet this challenge, let’s consider a different supply chain model that exists on the global commercial level and evaluate its viability as an alternative solution for Pharma to distribute vaccines. 

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Take Coca-Cola for instance — the organization sells 1.9 billion products every day using a micro-fulfillment model at a local scale to distribute its beverages, down to the Coca-Cola machine located near you. They don’t accomplish this on their own, rather, they have a vast legion of bottlers and distributors that produce and distribute their beverages. By franchising to over 250 bottling partners worldwide, Coca-Cola can outsource these responsibilities for local production and replenishment. 

How does it work? Coca-Cola sells the concentrate to these bottlers but remains the owner of its brand and global marketing, while the bottling partners work closely with Coca-Cola to build localized strategies with suppliers, grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, as well as many others. Although Coca-Cola is a global company, its products never have to travel far to reach the final consumer as the product is made local to the market where it is sold. 

Organizations utilize supply chain analytics to anticipate shifts in demand, proactively manage resources, mitigate potential risks, and improve efficiencies throughout their entire supply chain ecosystem.

Controlled franchises with transparency

Coca-Cola relies on bottling franchises to produce the beverages, bottle them, distribute, and replenish them. But they retain control over the downstream operations through a variety of data services, where processes are shared and automated to create a global operations network. Enabling refrigerated transportation and a special distribution machine, much like the Freestyle Coca-Cola machines, will need to be provided by an army of local franchised providers that have the raw materials.  

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As the vaccines must be kept at super low temperatures and current cold chains are challenged by temperature requirements, the best way to do this is to delay the end state to the end locations as much as possible as to not destabilize the compound. Similarly, Coca-Cola delays the assembly of the carbonated beverages by providing the machines that provide a fresh well-carbonated drink to the consumer. 

The use of analytics for code-free ERP IA and ML 

Most of the franchisees already have their own ERP systems and third-party software and are self-contained infrastructures. Many may or may not be on the cloud, further complicating the ability to share data and maintain some level of transparency. It’s inevitable that the same will hold true of any global distribution network used for the distribution of the vaccines. Using an Analytic Process Automation platform such as Alteryx can ease the burden of data sharing by providing a single thread for the data.  

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Furthermore, once the data has been wrangled, blended, cleaned, and prepared, the platform offers process automation between existing processes, allowing processes that exist within other software siloes to share outcomes and trigger automatic routines. This will become important, as quality will need to be monitored by the pharmaceutical companies as well as regulatory compliance.  

After all, the Pharma’s will have to provide the appropriate proof that vaccines are being made safely and distributed safely as well as being all accounted for since this crisis represents a security issue to our nation, where espionage and sabotage are issues that need to be considered. Because of time to market, consider the time it would take to build out integrations between various systems. Or, to build a data exchange much like the ones created for healthcare, where the best and most accelerated solution is to use an Analytic Process Automation platform to provide the integration and automation. 

By properly investing in and dedication to building your supply chain analytics, infrastructure can help you predict and thus mitigate or eliminate these challenges.

Real-time monitoring and proto-engineering of the supply replenishment 

Most supply chain optimization software has difficulties optimizing a real-time complex ecosystem like what I’m describing here. Trying to bring in your existing systems’ external data while trying and relying on data science to build optimization in your systems will be costly and time consuming.  

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Real-time supply chain monitoring and using data to build out simulation through an Analytic Process Automation platform will help suppliers and logistic providers for vaccines, proto-engineer processes for continuous improvements as well as identify significant improvement and acceleration through automation. 

The key to operational excellence

Because of the innate outsourcing nature of a micro-fulfillment supply chain model like Coca-Cola’s, being able to see and gain valuable insights into the entire process, including the outsourcing or franchise portion, will be critical to maintaining operational excellence, meeting safety standards, and protecting national interest. 

This article was originally published by Alteryx.

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