Michael Einhorn, President and CEO of Dealmed disscusses how critical commercial trucking is to keeping supply chains open for medical supplies while COVID continues to surge, and offers insight on how to remedy the issue and prevent the medical supply chain crisis from growing.
The continued rise of e-commerce as a primary medium for buying and selling is revamping the world economy, and the medical supply industry is no exception. With a 62% surge in e-commerce sales just this past year, the medical supply chain is beginning to present some of its more glaring weaknesses, with the trucking industry and its labor shortage crisis at the forefront.
COVID and its pervasiveness has reduced the labor available to move medical supplies through the supply chain. The spike in COVID-19 Delta-variant cases has had suppliers and hospitals alike backordering stock in preparation for perpetual fall season Delta-variant spikes and what many predict to be a deadly flu season to boot.
According to Technavio, an incremental growth of $ 28.67 billion is projected in the personal protective equipment (PPE) market spanning 2020-2024. With persistent bottlenecks on all fronts from manufacturing, to freight, port, and land the alarming writing on the wall is giving many retailers and care providers flashbacks of the medical supply crisis faced in that of Spring 2020.
In the early midst of the pandemic last year, inventory flew off shelves leaving many hospitals unable to secure adequate PPE such as masks, gloves, gowns, gloves and eye protection. Care providers were left in a very dangerous position having to reuse masks and even creating makeshift gowns out of trash bags. Federal authorities rushed to assist with emergency stockpiled inventory as best they could, but many establishments still found themselves in dire straits.
As is well known, truck driver availability at lowest point in 3 years and freight volume by truck is up 37% over last year. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the trucking industry today needs more than 1.1 million new drivers in the next ten years. The solutions proposed by various parties are easier said than done, and many companies our looking abroad to put drivers in seats. Others are hoping for technology to save the day, with autonomous trucking technology developing at a hastened pace and prototypes already being tested on public highways.
Despite all issues in the supply chain, Dealmed is being as proactive as possible by doing the following: expanding distribution centers, using more technology to help with automation, diversifying our supply chain and creating backflow warehousing.
Our team is bolstering these systems in order to stay ahead of shipping delays and ensure clients maintain and replenish their stock. We have expanded for the first time into the Southeast region to supplement our Northeast and Mid-Atlantic distribution centers and support our rapidly growing customer base. The new center will accommodate our growing inventories and serve as a backflow warehouse for our original product line (Dealmed Originals). It is our goal to seamlessly distribute several thousands of products from over 200 brands.
With our new developments we can now offer next-day delivery to most East Coast states. Additionally, we are currently testing several distribution technologies to better catalog and track items, as well as advanced packing systems to enhance our proprietary warehousing technologies.
While suppliers are fortifying their logistics and warehousing as best they can, and trucking companies scramble to hire and combat crippling regulations, many are turning to our representative government for help. While the White House COVID-19 response team is currently hard-focused on vaccine and booster shot distribution, Dealmed as a member of Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) along with the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has urged the Biden administration and the White House Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force with yet another letter suggesting solutions to the supply chain crisis which we all agree has escalated to a nationwide healthcare issue.
We wish to begin the discussion with two main points: developing a process that prioritizes critical medical supplies and equipment during current and future pandemics and aligning transportation operations to support healthcare during public health emergencies.
If we collectively improve these two areas, businesses can better adapt to the ever-changing COVID climate and overcome the risk and uncertainty plaguing it. I believe that we will emerge from these pressures stronger and better prepared to overcome future pandemics and emergencies.