News | Gütersloh / Chanteloup-en-Brie, 01/14/2021

Battling Coronavirus – With Bertelsmann’s Help

Bertelsmann companies are assisting in the battle against coronavirus: In Germany and France, respectively, Majorel, Arvato Systems and Arvato Supply Chain Solutions are involved in the preparation and implementation of current and upcoming vaccination campaigns.

It is the most daunting task ever faced by the healthcare system in Germany, as well as in all other countries around the world: vaccinating the population against coronavirus as it continues its rapid spread. After Germany began by vaccinating residents of retirement and nursing homes as well as caregivers, vaccination of the rest of the population, broken down into various risk groups, is now slowly getting underway here as well. As soon as sufficient vaccines are available, the aim is to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible at regional vaccination centers. Various Bertelsmann companies are also involved in carrying out this mammoth task. In Lower Saxony, for example, the service provider Majorel, in which Bertelsmann owns a 50-percent stake, is handling the citizens’ hotline. Beyond this, Majorel works with Arvato Systems to organize the underlying scheduling platform, which also serves to manage vaccine stocks at Lower Saxony’s vaccination centers. And in France, Arvato Supply Chain Solutions ensures the nationwide distribution of vaccines.

The first of some 400 vaccination centers in the German states recently began operating; the 50 or so centers in Lower Saxony are scheduled to start in February, according to Carola Reimann, Lower Saxony’s Minister of Health and Social Affairs. If it were up to Majorel and Arvato Systems, however, things could start at any time. “On the technical side, everything is in place – the scheduling platform is ready to go,” says Klaus-Peter Bergmann, Majorel’s Managing Director who is responsible for the Corona project.

However, citizens in Lower Saxony can already call the citizens’ hotline operated by Majorel at 0 800 99 88 665 to clear up any questions they may have about the Covid 19 vaccine – so far, up to 11,000 calls a day are handled here daily at peak times. And starting January 28, they can use this hotline, which is currently operated by about 110 and soon as many as 150 Majorel colleagues at three sites in Lower Saxony and one more site in Brandenburg, to schedule their vaccination appointments. “Preparing for the Covid-19 vaccinations is a huge organizational challenge on many different levels,” explains Lower Saxony’s health minister. “In Majorel, we have found an experienced Lower Saxony-based service provider to put the scheduling platform, which is linked to the vaccine logistics at the distribution centers, on a secure footing.” As soon as the first deliveries of a vaccine arrive, she said, the first eligible people can be called to schedule their vaccinations. “We are delighted to be able to support the Lower Saxony state government in this important and responsible task and, as a partner for appointment management, to ensure maximum efficiency in the Covid-19 vaccination process,” declares Klaus-Peter Bergmann of Majorel, and adds that Majorel’s employees apparently agree: “We are getting feedback from our colleagues saying they feel very motivated by being able to make a difference during this time, and actively help to ensure that the virus is further contained.”

Complex challenges

Majorel’s service package is complemented by various IT solutions from Arvato Systems. Peter Koop, Vice President Healthcare Solutions at Arvato Systems, explains how this came about. “In our field, we have long been involved with systems that, among other things, ensure that medicines are forgery-proof. So using existing IT platforms to fight Corona seemed like an obvious solution,” as Koop tells BENET. In talks with colleagues at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions and Majorel, it quickly emerged what contribution Arvato Systems could make in this area. On the one hand, there is the online portal, which citizens can use to obtain information and schedule an appointment for vaccinations. Secondly, a technical platform was needed to ensure that the processes at the vaccination centers are digitally supported – e.g. the registration of vaccinated persons and the management of vaccine stocks. “These are definitely complex challenges, considering that we need two vaccination dates for millions of people and that double registrations have to be avoided, that citizens want to be contacted via different channels – email, SMS, or letter post – and that logistics have to take into account multiple vaccines with different requirements for storage and transport,” explains Koop.

Suitable IT solutions that Arvato Systems already operates for various customers were adapted and combined to meet all these requirements – and in record time at that. “In mid-November, we reached an agreement with Majorel and Arvato Supply Chain Solutions. By December 15, the first version of our new IT platform was ready, and on December 27, the first vaccination tracked using the platform took place in Lower Saxony,” Carsten Bruning, Director Tracking & Telematics at Arvato Systems, notes happily. At this point, the Arvato Systems platform has logged more than 75,000 vaccinations by mobile vaccination teams at senior residences and nursing homes, he said. With the official launch of appointment scheduling via the citizens’ portal, another litmus test lies ahead, he says. “But we’ve been prepared for this, too, since the beginning of the year,” Bruning points out. During the holidays and at the turn of the year, around 50 colleagues from Arvato Systems worked on the technical implementation – the first email of the year in this matter was dated January 1, 0:30 a.m., and came from project manager Kimberly Karambis. From that day on, a good 50 more employees from Gütersloh and Bielefeld have called in at the vaccination centers in Lower Saxony, where they ensured that the software is being implemented professionally and that everyone involved is trained on-site; further visits are possible at any time. Support also came from colleagues in other departments at Arvato Systems, who contributed their expertise in logistics management and data centers, for example. The IT systems required are operated both in Arvato’s own data center and in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

Unique selling proposition

“There is an incredible level of commitment to this matter across the whole team,” Peter Koop proudly declares. “In view of the dramatic situation, a high level of intrinsic motivation on the part of everyone involved is essentially a given. We want to do our part to quickly improve the situation in the country – and in doing so, we are impressively demonstrating what Arvato Systems is capable of.” Michael Horstmann, Senior Manager Sales & Consulting and responsible for sales of the IT platform, is convinced that Arvato Systems has a unique selling proposition in the marketplace with its tried and tested IT solutions that have been adapted for the new contract. For this reason, he also expresses confidence that they may soon be able to take action in one or two other German states or in other European countries in the battle against coronavirus. “If, say, there is an overload there in March or April, when the number of vaccinations could reach a peak, we will be happy to make ourselves available at short notice.”

In France, too, Bertelsmann experts – in this case from Arvato Supply Chain Solutions – are supporting the authorities in the fight against coronavirus, specifically in the distribution of vaccines. Arvato Supply Chain Solutions is one of Europe’s leading logistics service providers for thermosensitive pharmaceutical and medical technology products. “We were able to convince the French Ministry of Health to partner with Arvato for the last-mile distribution of the vaccine because we have years of experience in this very area,” says Nicolas Virmoux, General Manager Healthcare at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions in France. “From our pharmaceutical logistics center in Chanteloup-en-Brie, we distribute products at -80 or -20 degrees Celsius or in the 2 to 8 degree and 15 to 25 degree Celsius ranges daily for international pharmaceutical customers. We were also able to make it clear that Arvato Supply Chain Solutions stands for a very high level of quality and, in Bertelsmann, has a financially sound parent company.”

A visit from the French Minister of Health

Once the French Ministry of Health published its call for tenders for the distribution of pandemic vaccines in October 2020, things started happening very quickly. The contracted companies were able to get started by mid-December. “Our team set up the IT infrastructure and operational processes over the holidays in record time, so that we were able to successfully ship the first shipments by the beginning of January,” reports Nicolas Virmoux. Arvato Supply Chain Solutions will remain the main partner of the French Ministry of Health until at least the end of the current year, says the manager. Besides the very tight schedule for a rapid implementation of the project, the main challenges were to ensure the safety and integrity of the vaccine at all times according to the very high pharmaceutical standards, and to be able to react quickly and flexibly to revised guidelines and data from the French Ministry of Health.

The vaccine is currently being distributed throughout France from Arvato Supply Chain Solutions’ international logistics site in Chanteloup-en-Brie, 30 kilometers east of Paris. “Due to the optimal transport network and the proximity to the airports in Paris, it is possible for us to make the vaccine available as quickly and as safely as possible throughout the country – including the French overseas territories,” says Virmoux. To transport the products, the group of companies relies on a network that connects more than 150 freight forwarders and carriers throughout Europe. In each case, the most suitable transport solution is chosen for the product in question, the destination, and the delivery time. “In the case of the Biontech/Pfizer product, the vaccine must reach its destination and thus the person to be vaccinated within eleven hours after removal from minus-80-degree refrigeration,” explains the Arvato executive. “Due to the geographically large area we serve in France, for some destinations we rely on airplanes to deliver the vaccine on time. We use different carriers for vaccine distribution. In our capacity as Arvato Supply Chain Solutions, we contract Bertelsmann’s aircraft as well as those of other carriers for this purpose.” He said that Bertelsmann Aviation aircraft are ideally suited for transportation, as are all the carriers used, and have the right equipment and qualified personnel as needed.

“The huge level of media interest is unique to this project,” says Nicolas Virmoux, describing another special challenge. On December 22, he tells us, the French Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, even visited Arvato Supply Chain Solutions’ pharmaceutical logistics center in Chanteloup-en-Brie together with members of the press to see the high quality and processes first-hand. “Moreover,” says Virmoux, “we are making a major contribution to ending the Corona pandemic in France as quickly as possible. This makes all of us at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions very proud.”