COVID-19 SPECIAL

Local logistics firms benefit from global demand for medical supplies

Investments in technical, business capabilities enable them to take advantage of surge in demand during pandemic

Long-term investments in technical and business capabilities have allowed companies to see the benefits by continuing to support the movement of goods and essential items. PHOTO: ST FILE

The surge in demand across the world for healthcare and medical products in recent months is proving a bonanza for local logistics firms.

The companies have been able to take advantage of the global need for vital supplies, thanks to long-term investments in technical and business capabilities.

Courier company SFS Pharma Logistics invested in software for managing temperature-controlled shipments and worked with government agency Enterprise Singapore early last year to digitalise its fleet management system to standardise deliveries within Singapore.

Managing director Roger Chew said that one of the shipments it has handled involved transferring pre-clinical Covid-19 trial samples using mouse serum from a company in San Diego to Singapore's Duke-NUS Medical School.

One of the company's main challenges is securing space on flights.

"Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, airlines have drastically reduced passenger flights, resulting in limited freighter flights carrying cargo only that ply the route from (Los Angeles) to Singapore," said Mr Chew.

It has contingency plans in place in case of flight cancellations or delays - for example, its office in South Korea can retrieve packages and replenish dry ice to ensure the products are not compromised.

Global Airfreight International has reaped the benefits of training its employees to handle highly sensitive pharmaceutical products.

The company has been shipping Covid-19 clinical trial samples between Singapore and South Korea since early March.

Companies that have invested in digitalisation, developed robust business continuity plans and forged close partnerships have seen the benefits by continuing to support the movement of goods and essential items, said Enterprise Singapore transport and logistics director Law Chung Ming.

"Beyond productivity gains, technology has replaced companies' need for face-to-face interactions, which has helped to keep workers safe," he said.

Mr Law also urged companies to use this downtime to develop remote capabilities and invest in training and technology.

Global Airfreight's deputy chairman and senior managing director William Chong said that trust and transparency within the supply chain are important, especially with the pandemic placing a strain on the global network.

"By knowing our partners' capabilities and business practices, we can address risks along the supply chain as work continues," he said, citing how the company's working relationship with airlines allows it to keep abreast with different regulation changes in a fast-evolving global environment.

Mr Law said the pandemic has emphasised the need for close communication and good working relations between all parties in the supply chain, including air freight forwarders, transport operators and warehouse workers.

"We expect more companies to develop closer partnerships with their stakeholders to build greater supply chain resiliency, even after measures to ease the circuit breaker are implemented," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2020, with the headline Local logistics firms benefit from global demand for medical supplies. Subscribe