Can the Global Supply Chain Meet the Demands of Healthcare?

A healthcare product’s journey is equally as important as its destination.

Each year, Global Business Reports publishes its report on the state of the biopharmaceutical industry based on interviews with more than 100 authoritative thought leaders.

These include industry associations, logistics experts, academic institutions, research organizations, consultants and analysts.

As part of the report, UPS’s Dirk van Peteghem shared his insights on supply chain challenges and opportunities and trends for biopharmaceuticals. He also delved into UPS’s strategy to meet healthcare’s increasingly complex logistics needs.

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One degree could be all that separates an effective medicine for a patient and an inventory write-off.

GBR: Discuss UPS’s healthcare logistics strategy for biopharmaceuticals.

Dirk: Healthcare continues to be a fast-growing sector and a top-tier priority for UPS. As more pharmaceutical and biopharma manufacturers look to outsource supply chain operations to reliable 3PLs, UPS knows that having a nimble, scalable and integrated global supply chain is critical to meet demands of the healthcare and life science sectors.

Manufacturers and clinical organizations are relying more on companies like UPS that have extensive logistics experience, regulatory expertise, and cold-chain capabilities – in addition to value-added services. We will continue to make the right investments for timely, secure transportation and storage of sensitive, high-value products, including lab specimens and other time-and temperature-sensitive goods.

Look at it this way: For many pharmaceutical and biological shipments, one degree could be all that separates an effective medicine for a patient and an inventory write-off, so strict controls are critical. UPS’s best-in-class portfolios like UPS Temperature True®, UPS Proactive Response®, UPS Express Critical® and more help reduce losses and proactively maintain product integrity and visibility as shipments move through our supply chain.

UPS healthcare facility – temperature sensitive packaging

These are the types of services healthcare and life science companies rely on as therapies become increasingly sensitive, sophisticated and valuable.

GBR: Give us an update on the Marken acquisition and how the two brands are meeting complex demands for clinical trial logistics.

Dirk: Marken is the clinical supply chain subsidiary of UPS and is the global leader in providing patient-centric supply chain solutions for the life science industry. It was recently announced that Marken launched a new service allowing nurses to drop off clinical trial samples at The UPS Store® locations within the United States. This expanded service is a direct result of the exponential growth of home-based clinical trials in the past few years.

Marken worked closely with UPS to set up the service, which provides patients and nurses greater flexibility for home care during clinical trials. Other developments include the launch of a hybrid service that enables the booking of Marken shipments in its proprietary Maestro operating system, managing them from origin to destination while using the UPS network in a seamlessly effective manner.

The service provides more flight options and integrated tracking to and from major airports. At the same time, Marken draws on UPS’s experience with temperature-sensitive transportation which, when combined with Marken’s experience with clinical trials, forms a powerful combination.

Marken expanded its geographic reach and product portfolio in 2017, including announcements of new locations in Stuttgart, Germany, Shanghai, China, and Ahmedabad, India. Increased demand for depot, depot-related drug distribution and patient-centric services will continue to inspire investment in infrastructure, pharmaceutical expertise and project management capability.

GBR: How are shippers and logistics companies creating better packaging efficiencies for high-value products moving through the supply chain?

Dirk: Cold chain packaging and shipping trends continue to evolve as pharmaceutical and life science organizations increasingly move toward more secure temperature-sensitive shipping solutions, particularly during last-mile transportation.

Shippers are taking advantage of more complete protection of payloads end-to-end, as well as leveraging data from their carriers such as ambient temperature environment, package orientations and other solutions to develop more effective last-mile solutions.

For small packages – but particularly for freight – that means more controlled-room temperature solutions requiring enhanced ambient environments. Healthcare companies are finding a greater need to optimize the product carton and shipping carton, minimize unused space and select more precise packaging configurations.

You’ll see more efforts placed on sustainable materials, and demand will grow for carriers to offer more temperature controls within its network to minimize packout complexities, costs and requirements. An increased number of pharmaceutical companies are also innovating and collaborating with 3PLs to create better efficiencies, de-bulk shipments and reduce dimensional weight costs.

GBR: How does UPS incorporate technology in its healthcare packaging service offerings?

Dirk: UPS constantly innovates and implements new technologies. We are finalizing the launch in 2018 of a new, innovative packaging service for healthcare and life science customers.

Through UPS’s Package Design and Test Lab, our engineers put packages through rigorous testing to make sure they hold up to real-world conditions from heat and humidity to impact and vibration. UPS also has done extensive mapping studies of our shipping lanes during the coldest and warmest parts of the year to create a comprehensive set of systematic ambient temperature profiles.

This data help our engineers identify the most appropriate packaging for items such as biologics and specimens to help prevent damage and spoilage, remain within required temperature range and ensure critical healthcare products get where they need to be to improve the quality of lives.

There are fewer than 400 labs worldwide certified by the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA), and our location is approved by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA).

GBR: Do you have a final message regarding UPS’s overall outlook on the industry?

Dirk: The increase of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals and biologics entering the global marketplace is changing the game on how products are packaged, stored and shipped. Also, enhanced technologies (think 3D printing and cryogenics) and patient-centric trends (think kidney dialysis and cancer screenings performed in the home setting) are shifting the status quo.

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Healthcare companies and supply chain providers have vast opportunities for collaboration.

Third-party logistics providers will be challenged more and more to keep pace as healthcare and life science businesses continue to develop new treatments, clinical trials increasingly become multi-regional and healthcare delivery models continue to evolve.

In today’s dynamic marketplace, healthcare companies and supply chain providers have vast opportunities for collaboration to gain cost savings while improving the quality of lives for populations globally.

A healthcare product’s journey is equally as important as its destination. As the industry continues to innovate, so too must logistics providers to provide best-in-class supply chain solutions that ensure product integrity and safety.

This article originally appeared in Global Business Reports and has been republished with permission.

Dirk Van Peteghem is Vice President of New Product Development at UPS. Prior to this role, he served as UPS’s Vice President of Global Healthcare Strategy.

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