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Synchronizing the power of global collaboration

While Covid-19 represents a real stress test for globalization, the rapid development of several vaccines is a powerful example of the immense potential of global collaboration.
By John Pearson |

Over the past decade, globalization and capitalism have often been made out to be key culprits for the problems we face.  At the same time, the global research campaign to develop an effective vaccine against Covid-19 has also underscored what these forces can achieve when they are properly aligned and incentivized.  The “old game” — blaming others or blaming abstract concepts like globalization and capitalism — may be convenient, but it certainly doesn’t get us any closer to solving the hard problems we face.

We are also seeing that a true calamity — the outbreak of the pandemic — has triggered an intense wave of globe-spanning collaboration. As of mid-January 2021, a total of 240 vaccines for Covid-19 are in development worldwide, with several of them already in use for vaccination campaigns globally. This not only points to our collective problem-solving capacity, but also underscores the positive side of globalization.

Calamities can also open up unexpected opportunities in other fields of the economy.  For example, while the production of new airplanes has come to a halt, some aircraft manufacturers are intensifying their research into hydrogen-fueled airplanes.  This technology could greatly reduce the emissions footprint of airplanes.

Immense progress is also in reach in the energy arena.  In particular, so-called “power-to-X” technologies — i.e., various processes that are key to move the world past fossil fuels by turning low-cost renewable energy into heat, hydrogen or synthetic fuels — can help industry worldwide to operate on a sustainable basis.  This was deemed improbable only a decade ago.

To succeed with these and any other breakthrough technologies, the twin powers of collaboration and synchronicity — the essence of globalization — are the essential building blocks.

As the global effort now underway to distribute the vaccine underscores, the global logistics industry is the linchpin for many of these cutting-edge efforts and for overall economic efficiency.

To provide global coverage over the next two years, DHL anticipates in its recently released vaccine whitepaper report that up to 200,000 pallet shippers and 15 million cooling boxes, as well as 15,000 flights will be required across the various supply chain setups.
To provide global coverage over the next two years, DHL anticipates in its recently released vaccine whitepaper report that up to 200,000 pallet shippers and 15 million cooling boxes, as well as 15,000 flights will be required across the various supply chain setups.

Setting up closely time-sequenced as well as resilient operational structures to organize reliably optimized supply chains of goods — whether global, regional or national in focus and in reach — provides a daily, hands-on example of the power of collaboration.  All indications are that the actual distribution of the vaccine by the logistics industry seems to be working very smoothly, underscoring its ability to link the global with the local.

Obviously, any effort to move toward closer integration to advance efficiency is affiliated with risks.  These must be managed prudently.  Many companies have learned that lesson while dealing with the enormous business disruptions triggered by the current pandemic.

But what we should all feel encouraged by is the fact that, in contrast to the situation over a decade ago in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008-09, the world has quickly adapted to the pandemic.  Most people are still willing to trade, collaborate and stay connected. They are just finding different ways of keeping in touch.

As a result, while the level of globalization unsurprisingly is set to decline somewhat this year, it nevertheless has proven surprisingly resilient and robust.  As the new edition of the DHL Global Connected­ness Index shows, global trade, after a brief but sharp decline, has rebounded impressively. Trade and digital information flows are playing a critical role to keep the world connected and generate forward momentum.

Obviously, the pandemic-related need for social distancing has resulted in an unprecedent­ed decline in international travel.  It is on track to fall to a level not seen in three decades.  Meanwhile, data flows were up massively due to the vast increase in internet traffic, phone calls and video-based communica­tions which have allowed people to stay in touch.

For humanity to succeed in the future, focusing on the power of collaboration is key.  To be sure, the specific way in which we translate optimally synchronized collaboration into reality is different in every field of inquiry and for every specific big problem to be solved.

But all promising solutions, whether for global health, climate change, inequality, mass migration or hunger, require smartly joined efforts that span across national and regional barriers. In a global context, the renewed belief in the power of global cooperation which appears to be at the core of the new U.S. administration is especially encouraging.

The challenges require many different forms of smartly mixing public and private sector actors.  The way in which public and private sector researchers, scientific institutes and corporations across the world have been collaborating in the global race for a vaccine shows us the pathway to how we can — and must — proceed in the future.  As long as these efforts are well aligned, there is little that human imagination and determination cannot solve.

This is clearly a transformative moment.  While the world of politics can — and hopefully will — serve as a force multiplier, business needs to live up to its own aspirations and responsibi­li­­ties.  As business people, our task is to turn long-evident challenges into practical solutions and promising opportunities.

Ultimately, the solution to many of our challenges thus lies in rethinking globalization and capitalism so that they address the pressing needs of the world’s population in a more resilient fashion.

On occasion, this may even involve surprising forms of ownership.  Remember how the inventor of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk, famously responded when asked who owned the patent on it: “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

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Over the past decade, globalization and capitalism have often been made out to be key culprits for the problems we face.  At the same time, the global research campaign to develop an effective vaccine against Covid-19 has also underscored what these forces can achieve when they are properly aligned and incentivized.  The “old game” — blaming others or blaming abstract concepts like globalization and capitalism — may be convenient, but it certainly doesn’t get us any closer to solving the hard problems we face.

We are also seeing that a true calamity — the outbreak of the pandemic — has triggered an intense wave of globe-spanning collaboration. As of mid-January 2021, a total of 240 vaccines for Covid-19 are in development worldwide, with several of them already in use for vaccination campaigns globally. This not only points to our collective problem-solving capacity, but also underscores the positive side of globalization.

Calamities can also open up unexpected opportunities in other fields of the economy.  For example, while the production of new airplanes has come to a halt, some aircraft manufacturers are intensifying their research into hydrogen-fueled airplanes.  This technology could greatly reduce the emissions footprint of airplanes.

Immense progress is also in reach in the energy arena.  In particular, so-called “power-to-X” technologies — i.e., various processes that are key to move the world past fossil fuels by turning low-cost renewable energy into heat, hydrogen or synthetic fuels — can help industry worldwide to operate on a sustainable basis.  This was deemed improbable only a decade ago.

To succeed with these and any other breakthrough technologies, the twin powers of collaboration and synchronicity — the essence of globalization — are the essential building blocks.

As the global effort now underway to distribute the vaccine underscores, the global logistics industry is the linchpin for many of these cutting-edge efforts and for overall economic efficiency.

To provide global coverage over the next two years, DHL anticipates in its recently released vaccine whitepaper report that up to 200,000 pallet shippers and 15 million cooling boxes, as well as 15,000 flights will be required across the various supply chain setups.
To provide global coverage over the next two years, DHL anticipates in its recently released vaccine whitepaper report that up to 200,000 pallet shippers and 15 million cooling boxes, as well as 15,000 flights will be required across the various supply chain setups.

Setting up closely time-sequenced as well as resilient operational structures to organize reliably optimized supply chains of goods — whether global, regional or national in focus and in reach — provides a daily, hands-on example of the power of collaboration.  All indications are that the actual distribution of the vaccine by the logistics industry seems to be working very smoothly, underscoring its ability to link the global with the local.

Obviously, any effort to move toward closer integration to advance efficiency is affiliated with risks.  These must be managed prudently.  Many companies have learned that lesson while dealing with the enormous business disruptions triggered by the current pandemic.

But what we should all feel encouraged by is the fact that, in contrast to the situation over a decade ago in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008-09, the world has quickly adapted to the pandemic.  Most people are still willing to trade, collaborate and stay connected. They are just finding different ways of keeping in touch.

As a result, while the level of globalization unsurprisingly is set to decline somewhat this year, it nevertheless has proven surprisingly resilient and robust.  As the new edition of the DHL Global Connected­ness Index shows, global trade, after a brief but sharp decline, has rebounded impressively. Trade and digital information flows are playing a critical role to keep the world connected and generate forward momentum.

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Obviously, the pandemic-related need for social distancing has resulted in an unprecedent­ed decline in international travel.  It is on track to fall to a level not seen in three decades.  Meanwhile, data flows were up massively due to the vast increase in internet traffic, phone calls and video-based communica­tions which have allowed people to stay in touch.

For humanity to succeed in the future, focusing on the power of collaboration is key.  To be sure, the specific way in which we translate optimally synchronized collaboration into reality is different in every field of inquiry and for every specific big problem to be solved.

But all promising solutions, whether for global health, climate change, inequality, mass migration or hunger, require smartly joined efforts that span across national and regional barriers. In a global context, the renewed belief in the power of global cooperation which appears to be at the core of the new U.S. administration is especially encouraging.

The challenges require many different forms of smartly mixing public and private sector actors.  The way in which public and private sector researchers, scientific institutes and corporations across the world have been collaborating in the global race for a vaccine shows us the pathway to how we can — and must — proceed in the future.  As long as these efforts are well aligned, there is little that human imagination and determination cannot solve.

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With a myriad of challenges posing for Covid-19 vaccine logistics in Asia, DHL’s recent delivery of the first batch of vaccines to Singapore is a good roadmap for what could come next.

After months of anticipation, much-needed Covid-19 vaccines are now ready for mass production, giving hope to life returning to some semblance of normalcy.

However, countries will require a phased vaccine rollout strategy and continued pandemic control using public health measures and other tools.

Countries need to address their unique demographic, infrastructure, epidemiologic and financing challenges in their Covid-19 response plans, and release the vaccine in a manner that will reduce mortality, strengthen their health system response, and regain economic health.

They also need to work with other countries to ensure equitable and speedy access to the vaccine for all.

On a logistical front, DHL, the leading logistics provider has delivered the first batch of vaccines from manufacturing sites to Singapore on December 21, among the first in Asia.

For the first delivery into Singapore, DHL Global Forwarding arranged for the collection of the vaccines from the manufacturing site in Puurs, Belgium where the cargo was sent by road, accompanied by security escorts to the Brussels International Airport.

The cargo arrived the next day at Singapore’s Changi International Airport where DHL handled the customs clearance and final delivery to a designated location in Singapore.

The company will also handle the return of these special shipper boxes which will be delivered back to Europe.

Throughout the journey, the vaccine shipments were tracked by DHL. Kelvin Leung, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding Asia Pacific said: “Globally, we have been preparing for many months to ensure DHL’s solutions were heavily tested with the most stringent vaccine requirements in mind. We ran trials to ensure the viability of the deliveries.

“Every effort was made to ensure the vaccines are delivered within the fastest possible time, ensuring the quality, safety and security of these critical shipments.

“Connecting People, Improving Lives is part of our core purpose. The pandemic has shown that we live this by doing what we do best – providing first rate logistics anywhere in the world.

“When the pandemic first started, we were shipping large quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE) to communities that urgently needed it. We have now come full circle, shipping the first vaccines around the world so they can be used to save lives.”

For the first delivery into Singapore, DHL handled the customs clearance and final delivery to a designated location in Singapore.

Throughout the journey, the vaccine shipments were tracked by DHL.

The company will also handle the return of these special shipper boxes which will be delivered back to Europe.

Every effort was made to ensure the vaccines are delivered within the fastest possible time, ensuring the quality, safety and security of these critical shipments.

To provide global coverage over the next two years, DHL anticipates in its recently released vaccine whitepaper report that up to 200,000 pallet shippers and 15 million cooling boxes, as well as 15,000 flights will be required across the various supply chain setups.

Temperature trackers equipped with sophisticated GPS are also packed within each thermal shipper box to provide full visibility throughout the shipment’s entire journey.

“Aircraft have limitations on the amount of dry ice that can be carried on board. This is a combination of the design of different types of aircraft, manufacturer guidelines as well as regulatory approvals,” revealed Adrian Shou, Head of Airfreight, DHL Global Forwarding Singapore.

“To move the vaccine shipments packed with the required dry ice involved highly detailed planning: from customs and regulatory approvals, to ensuring capabilities to maintain the vaccines’ temperature integrity throughout the process.”

On a global scale, logistics providers are challenged to rapidly establish the medical supply chain to deliver vaccines of unprecedented amount of more than 10 billion doses of vaccine worldwide.

To provide global coverage over the next two years, DHL anticipates in its recently released vaccine whitepaper report that up to 200,000 pallet shippers and 15 million cooling boxes, as well as 15,000 flights will be required across the various supply chain setups.

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This is clearly a transformative moment.  While the world of politics can — and hopefully will — serve as a force multiplier, business needs to live up to its own aspirations and responsibi­li­­ties.  As business people, our task is to turn long-evident challenges into practical solutions and promising opportunities.

Ultimately, the solution to many of our challenges thus lies in rethinking globalization and capitalism so that they address the pressing needs of the world’s population in a more resilient fashion.

On occasion, this may even involve surprising forms of ownership.  Remember how the inventor of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk, famously responded when asked who owned the patent on it: “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

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