The challenges involved in the project “repeated testing in the Canton of Aargau” and how they were solved

In addition to the vaccination campaign, repeated testing is an important part of combatting the coronavirus pandemic. The weekly testing of large groups in schools, offices and care homes helps to detect asymptomatic infections and break chains of infection. A prerequisite for the distribution of the necessary testing materials, the collection of samples, prompt transport to the medical lab and analysis requires significant logistics work from the companies involved. In the following text, we explain what the biggest challenges of the project “repeated testing in the Canton of Aargau” were and how appropriate solutions were developed and implemented in the shortest possible time.

The importance of repeated testing was known at an early stage

The Federal Office for Public Health understands that more than half of Covid-19 transmissions originate from people who show no symptoms at the time of the infection, which means they don’t know they are carrying the coronavirus. To protect the population, the canton of Aargau implemented repeated testing of large groups early on and launched a pilot project with saliva tests early on. People who agreed to be tested could take a saliva sample independently and take it to a defined collection point. The samples were then collected in a “pool” for analysis in the lab. If a pooled sample was positive, the affected group were tested for a second time to identify the infected person. “We want more tests instead of quarantine”, said the former canton doctor Dr. Yvonne Hummel on 26 February 2021. During the successful pilot phase involving various schools and care homes, important knowledge was acquired before the testing strategy was rolled out to the entire canton of Aargau in April 2021.

The CoviLab from Labor Dr. Risch (Photo: Labor Dr. Risch)
The CoviLab from Labor Dr. Risch (Photo: Labor Dr. Risch)

Development and implementation of the logistics concept

In order to implement the Federal testing strategy in the entire canton of Aargau, a logistics concept must be developed and implemented in the shortest time possible. The responsibility for the overall logistics lies with the canton of Aargau, the forwarding logistics are carried out by Schweizerische Post, and the return logistics by swissconnect ag. The forwarding logistics include the storage, assembly and distribution of the necessary testing materials to the tester. The return logistics include the route planning, the collection of samples twice a day from over 50 collection points and quality control before the samples are sent to the lab. The testing materials come from Disposan AG, and sample analysis is carried out by the Dr. Risch lab. For the implementation of the repeated testing, the canton of Aargau uses Swiss companies with extensive experience in their specialist areas. Below, the people involved tell us about their roles in the project and what the biggest challenges of their participation were.

One of around 50 corona sample collection boxes that have been set up throughout the canton of Aargau and are emptied twice a day.
One of around 50 corona sample collection boxes that have been set up throughout the canton of Aargau and are emptied twice a day.

Within a short space of time, several highly specialised specialists have formed a powerful team - even though we were mostly only able to meet digitally due to the pandemic. The biggest challenge was getting the correct material from the manufacturers to the tested and then collecting again from several sites and taking the samples to the lab.

Jürg Bachmann is head of logistics for the project “repeated testing in the canton of Aargau” and is the link between manufacturers, end customers and system specialists.

The biggest challenge was starting the project within a short time. After 10 days, we had already started onboarding companies and schools - and at the same time we developed the appropriate IT and logistics solutions.

Stefan Traber is joint leader for the project “repeated testing in the canton of Aargau” and manages the project regarding operational aspects.

Stefan Traber, Co-Project Manager for Repetitive Testing of the Canton of Aargau
Stefan Traber, Co-Project Manager for Repetitive Testing of the Canton of Aargau

Die Post is responsible for the storage, packaging and provision of the correct testing materials to the recipients. Also challenging was the short lead time between the intention to cooperate and the operational start date. Regular exchanges between all partners involved, the courage to implement pragmatic solutions and quick decision-making were important for the project to be successfully implemented.

Dennis Brotzmann is head of customer branch solutions at Die Post and responsible for the forward logistics in the repeated testing project.

The pandemic and political conditions are constantly evolving. Therefore, we must constantly adapt testing capacities, lab processes and working practices in the lab. At the start of the project “repeated testing in the canton of Aargau”, case numbers were high and the expected participation in the mass testing was much higher than in May when the project officially started. So, we started with excess capacities in the lab and adjusted said capacities to current conditions.

Daniel Caminada is head of innovation and product management at Dr. Risch lab and responsible for the project team on the lab side of things.

Daniel Caminada, Head Innovation & Productmanagement Labor Dr. Risch
Daniel Caminada, Head Innovation & Productmanagement Labor Dr. Risch

As express logisticians, we are used to developing and implementing solutions in a short time. The samples can be dropped off at more than 50 collection points which are emptied twice a day as part of seven route carried out by our partner couriers, before they reach the lab. In order to create routes digitally and for quality control purposes, we were able to rely on our logistics software, which helped us a lot. The greatest challenge was that we had little idea of what volumes to expect beforehand.

Fabio Christen is co-manager at swissconnect ag and responsible for the return logistics for the repeated testing project.

Fabio Christen, Co-Managing Director of swissconnect ag
Fabio Christen, Co-Managing Director of swissconnect ag
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