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Why AI-enabled contract management is a critical tool in the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain

Originally published in Supply Chain Management Review and written by Colin Earl, Agiloft

During COVID-19, the demand for products and shipping conditions have constantly evolved, presenting an ongoing challenge for freight companies trying to keep deliveries on track.

To overcome some of the logistical obstacles of COVID-19, supply-chain solution providers have relied greatly on automation to maintain business continuity, specifically for managing contracts and fulfillment remotely. We are now in the midst of the largest vaccination rollout in history, and the country is relying on the freight industry to deliver around 4.22 million vaccines daily throughout the U.S.

To complicate the task further, the deliveries must be transported in refrigerated shipping containers kept at -94°F ± 50°F to ensure that the vaccine does not expire before it reaches its destination and can be administered. 

To help pharma companies and freight providers record truck storage temperatures and cross-reference deliveries with expiration dates, they must rely heavily on the data within the contracts that make up these business transactions. That is why contract lifecycle management (CLM) is a critical tool in the vaccine supply chain and utilizing CLM with AI capabilities can help freight providers stay organized and successfully rollout the vaccine.

Tracking Delivery Real-time Delivery Data

The organizations involved in the vaccine supply chain must manage a high volume of contracts since each business-to-business transaction is set contractually. Without real-time data and clearly defined contract terms, supply-chain solution providers won’t be able to react quickly to disruptions when executing vaccine deliveries at scale. 

Legacy contract systems and repositories are ineffective here because they do not integrate with other applications across the business. That means they are unable to keep pace with the rapidly changing situation such as temperate and weather-related delays.

Modern technology and AI-enabled CLM software allows freight companies to continuously track shipments and manage millions of deliveries. It seamlessly integrates with logistics software, which is necessary to track the thousands of different COVID-19 vaccine supplier and freight service contracts. 

Digital contracting tools also allow suppliers to cross-reference live location data with the contract’s conditions to ensure that vaccine deliveries remain on track.

Managing Risk in the Vaccine Supply Chain

Organizations can now utilize AI-enabled CLM to further eliminate risk from supply chains. For Pfizer’s and Moderna’s supply chains, it is now possible for freight companies to train AI models to search for supply chain risks in existing vendor contracts to help anticipate delays or issues with truck refrigeration.

These AI models must be trained on existing contracts, but once deployed can manage risk and prevent lost revenue or delayed vaccines. Since vaccine producers and supply-chain providers don’t have the bandwidth to build them on their own, they must adopt existing enterprise technology to have access to agile, AI-enabled contract management tools.

In addition, CLM data clarifies financial liability if the shipments get behind schedule and helps to safeguard businesses from liability. This is critical for companies in the vaccine supply chain so they can manage supplier risk and adjust their processes by tracking inventory and shipment delays against contractual agreements.

Vaccine Supply Chain Resilience

Technology has been a key element in business continuity during these difficult times, overcoming the challenges of a primarily remote workforce, and keeping workers on the front lines safe. Leveraging CLM tools powered by AI technology, freight companies will be able to effectively deliver vaccines across the entire country on schedule and save lives this year.

For supply chain organizations wanting to take the first step in implementing AI-powered CLM, they should begin the search with a third-party software research firm, preferably based on real customer experiences like Gartner’s Peer Insights. 

These sources provide real information, not marketing speak, on both capabilities and customer experience, which supply chain leaders can use to zero in on the right CLM solution that will fit the needs of their organization.