Posted on 11 Feb 2021

C19 Partner Spotlight: SEKO Logistics

3-4 minutes

In the quest to get PPE and vaccinations to the right people, sometimes it’s the journey itself that’s become the biggest challenge.

For Brian Bourke, chief growth officer at SEKO Logistics, when someone finally puts a donated mask on, or gets the vaccine in the arm, he appreciates what it took to make it happen. 

“Even this late in the game, we are still at the point that a lot of people that need PPE are still not getting it,” Bourke said. “So we want to do everything we can to make sure we use our expertise to give solutions to the problems.”

The C19 Coalition and its partners have collectively delivered more than 1 billion units of PPE since the pandemic first began.

But it’s never easy.

And since Covid-19 first emerged, the shipping challenges have evolved.

In the first months of the pandemic, when inbound flights were shut down, it was hard to deliver products because merchandise often is shipped in the cargo of passenger planes. The result, PPE products became hard to find, extremely expensive, and quality issues and scams emerged. 

Before e-commerce, getting products to people was relatively painless, people would drive to central locations, such as a big-box store and pick up products. Now with e-commerce, not only does the PPE need to get to distribution centers, it then needs to be distributed to thousands of individual locations. Bourke estimates that the “final mile” of the delivery can be up to 80 percent of the total costs.

Listen to Brian Bourke discuss the final mile.

More recently, finding storage space for PPE has become a big hurdle.

“When Covid cases rose again and we went under lockdown again, people stopped buying experiences such as vacations, concerts and sporting events,” Bourke said. “Instead people were spending money on ‘things’ like office furniture and home workout equipment, all things that needed to be shipped. So all these warehouses that had space suddenly were filled with all this “stuff.”

Therefore when PPE was sent to an area, the exact locations were still being established so lack of warehouse space became a large problem. The space often needed to be rearranged like a Tetris puzzle to fit.

Shipments that came from overseas felt the bottleneck impact as well. For example, a simple presumption that a vessel loaded with PPE can easily make it to shore is wrong. Instead it’s a logistical nightmare. For example, it’s not uncommon to have 30 loaded vessels in Port of Long Beach in California, which is the second-busiest container port in the United States, waiting for weeks for a place to dock.

While SEKO understands the problems faced, it’s doing what it can to mitigate the issues.

First, because it has more than 60 facilities around the country, SEKO has let organizations utilize some of its warehouse space where possible.

Second, SEKO is also doing its part to keep delivery costs low. For instance, if a SEKO truck is in route to deliver goods, and it’s going by somewhere that PPE is needed, every attempt will be made to do the delivery for free. Additionally, SEKO will search for third parties to help with PPE delivery, and always request a discounted rate because of the urgency of the products to reduce the financial burden to those who need PPE. 

SEKO has worked with other partners including Get Us PPE and helped kick off the Millions of Masks for Children in the state of Washington, which supported more than 5,400 childcare and youth programs, by donating warehouse space.

“The SEKO team’s expertise makes them a great partner,” said Ashley Gazich, a project leader with C19 Coalition. “Thanks to SEKO’s knowledge, we’ve been able to plan around supply chain disruptions that could’ve slowed us down.”

Not only has SEKO helped others with supply chain logistics, it also purchased and donated more than $200,000 PPE on its own and delivered it to hospitals through its program “SEKO Cares.”

For Bourke personally, as he witnessed this pandemic unfold, he does believe there’s a lot of wisdom that can be pulled from it.

“When this is over we need to do a post mortem on what the hell just happened, because what’s clear is this won’t be the last time we see this,” Bourke said. “There’s going to be other ‘volcanoes’ that disrupt life on earth, so we really need to think about how we respond to these issues and come up with better plans.”

In the end, there’s one glimmer of hope that Bourke holds onto as he looks to both the past, present and future.

“If you think about it, this is the first time in the history of humanity when all of the smartest people in the world are working on the same problem,” he said. “I believe brighter days are ahead.”