XPO President on Vaccine Distribution Challenges and Developments

This episode of The Vaccine Challenge is hosted by Priyanka Asera and features Katrina Liddell, President Global Forwarding & Expedite, XPO Logistics. Prior to XPO, Katrina’s also been on the shipper side– working at Johnsons Controls for 14 years. XPO is one of those unique providers that assist in vaccine deployment throughout the supply chain – right from the first mile to the last mile and so they bring a very well rounded and end to end perspective.

There have been many heart-warming stories of their people that have been on the frontlines since the pandemic began, right up to today. The essential nature of their work, along with thousands of other frontline workers, has kept our way of life moving forward and we discuss some of their initiatives and challenges in making this possible.

Topics touched upon:

What is XPO’s reach and speciality:

  • 100,000 employees across 30 countries. Partnered with more than 50000 customers across all major industries - including retail, industrial, pharma, manufacturing.
  • Provides services in the first mile, middle mile and last mile including air cargo, full truckload and parcel deliveries
  • Specifically for vaccine transportation, XPO has temperature validation devices and strict condition requirements for trailers.
  • XPO Connect is their real time visibility technology that provides eyes on every truck, and can provide this visibility to all customers and to customer’s customer

What are your 3 biggest challenges within vaccine distribution:

  • Vaccine supply fluctuations: The supply has improved but still evolving and its availability fluctuates
  • Capacity: Other items associated with the vaccine. PPE, syringes, gloves, masks, gowns. XPO works closely with manufacturers providing all this other stuff that enable innoculations to happen.
  • Temperature control: Managing excursions. XPO has very high standards for temperature control.

Touch on distribution operations, and variables that affect operations

  • We move products from various facilities to both air freight hubs, distribution centers (DC) or cold storage. In some cases, even to the final point of use
  • Once the vaccine arrives at a DC, it is deconsolidated and then parceled to the final point of use
  • Final mile parcel delivery is the most difficult/tightest. Parcel delivery networks can really get clogged up.

What are some key security challenges and how do you solve for it:

  • Local police escort with trucks in some cases
  • Team drivers in temperature validated trucks so there is someone present at all times
  • Nobody discusses details of what commodity is in a truck except the shipper and consignee. We don’t want anyone to know if a refrigerated truck has produce or 200,000 dozes of the COVID vaccine
  • Industry standard: Not stopping within a 250 mile radius of the shipper once loaded

What other ways are you supporting overall COVID relief

  • Moving saline, PPE, syringes, sprayers, styrofoam, dry ice, temp controlled packaging, plastic & labels, sedatives, inhalers, OTC anti-cold and cough medicine. We want to make sure clinics are stocked with all items needed for relief efforts and requirements have changed drastically from when the pandemic hit in March 2020 to now.
  • We don’t manufacture dry ice, but we can transport it. It’s used as a passive cooling device. It reduces the difference in temperature between what’s inside the package and outside

What interesting partnerships have you formed?

  • NYC emergency management department has partnered with XPO. We help them 24/7 logistics support for emergency distribution of supplies. Eg. MRE’s, OTC medical product, rubber gloves, sanitizers, blankets, baby formula

What’s going to change long term as a result of this pandemic?

  • Pace of online shopping will massively continue growing. eCommerce volume today is what was predicted for 2025. It’s accelerated massively
  • Changes in order preparation, inventory management, omnichannel strategy - both B2C and B2B, pure-play eCom players will need more help in warehousing and distribution, contactless delivery will continue to remain an option
  • Shipper board rooms will be discussing: Do we have a business model to support ecom, and if not, should we? How do we get to a customer faster? How do we forward stock and manage our inventory?

About Katrina

Katrina Liddell has responsibility for XPO's global forwarding and expedite operations in North America. Previously, she served as head of sales for XPO’s North American transportation group.

Ms. Liddell joined the company following 14 years with Johnson Controls International, where her positions included general manager of the global building automation systems business, and senior roles in enterprise account management, vertical market development, operations and customer relations. She holds a juris master degree from Emory University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.