- UPS stepped up a collaboration with FEMA to provide supply chain services for the agency's distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and necessary materials throughout the U.S., including respirators, N95 masks and gloves for healthcare workers across the country, according to a Monday news release from the carrier. The company already has an embedded logistician within FEMA. But now FEMA will gain access to UPS' Worldport facilities in Louisville for temporary staging of critical shipments from overseas.
- UPS said it is also working with other government agencies and companies to support swift transportation of test kits, PPE, supplies and medical devices. The UPS Healthcare segment services include healthcare-licensed distribution space, supply chain management, temperature-control packaging and shipping, storage and fulfillment of medical devices, labs and clinical trial specimens.
- UPS said it is distributing DuPont's supplies via UPS Next Day Air services and UPS Ground shipping to support drive-through testing centers in the United States. And UPS shipped the first 10,000 Pharmatech test kits on Monday, with ongoing shipments ramping to 20,000 kits every Monday, Wednesday and Friday moving forward, according to the company.
The work of the U.S. supply chain, trucking firms and parcel companies has been labeled an essential service by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of Homeland Security. The transport industry must keep things running because it has a "special responsibility" in this time of pandemic, according to the agency.
Transport firms are doing exactly that, rushing to supply the public and private sectors with a variety of health equipment, test kits, diagnostic specimens, medical devices and pharmaceutical items, in what UPS called an "unprecedented" coordination with the federal and state governments since the coronavirus crisis began.
UPS said it will work in coordination with President Donald Trump's Coronavirus Taskforce, funneling the supplies to FEMA and state health agencies. In the past, UPS has worked with relief organizations on other crises, such as when UPS donated $16,000 in shipping services to the children's organization UNICEF after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
One way UPS is managing the collaboration is with an "embedded" UPS logistician within FEMA, and that person on "pop-up" test sites in 47 states, according to Wes Wheeler, president of UPS healthcare and Life Sciences, speaking during a webinar on healthcare procurement last week.
For UPS, the challenge is to restructure its existing network in a way that best fits the new needs of the federal and state governments during the pandemic. Wheeler spoke about the "repositioning" in the webinar.
"We're trying to offer our services not only to bring test kits into the pop-up centers, but also bring samples to the six approved CDC laboratories around the country," Wheeler said. "We're now working with two states actively and we expect to be working with more than 10 states by the end of this week ... We're positioning [equipment] in three warehouse locations right now [in] California; Louisville, Kentucky; and Pennsylvania in order for us to stage and manage whatever materials are required at these sites as they pop up."
FedEx, UPS' main competitor and the second-largest freight-and-parcel company in the United States, said on March 23 that its FedEx Express subsidiary began a special operation "to help the U.S. government quickly move COVID-19 test specimens from more than 50 remote drive-thru testing centers at major retailers across 12 states." The White House, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and FEMA, led the collaborative effort, FedEx said.