Exploring the Life Science Supply Chain

Exploring the Life Science Supply Chain

Per the US Department of Commerce’s 2016 ITA Cold Chain Top Markets Report, “Over $260 billion of annual biopharma sales are dependent on cold chain logistics to ensure the efficacy of their products.”1 This sector of cold chain involves complicated logistics challenges with serious consequences for failure. The reputations and profits of Life Science companies depend on their ability to partner with the right logistics provider, and their customers’ lives rely on that partner’s competence and expediency. Failure in the pharmaceutical sector of logistics can have much more serious implications than in any other. Pharmaceutical products may not show the effects of mishandling the way conventional goods show damages, so the logistics provider must be able to demonstrate that the goods were handled appropriately at all stages of transport.

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Cold chain logistics is a complicated business that requires innovative solutions paired with the highest level of care and attention. Industry standards have come a long way since the first refrigerated truck was invented in the 1940s, and Life Science companies now must adhere to strict regulations while enduring difficult conditions around the world. Meeting these extremely high expectations is only possible with a complete solution made by collaborating across all stages of the supply chain. To create such a solution, suppliers need to choose a logistics partner that takes the time to completely understand their needs. The logistics partner should also have the flexibility and experience to bring innovative technologies and ideas to the table, an absolute requirement in the rapidly-changing world of cold chain logistics. In many cases, utilizing a non-asset based partner will allow for a more fluid supply chain that better adapts to the ever-changing regulations, increasing standards, and rapid growth across the pharmaceutical industry.

The continuous increase in industry standards has led today’s suppliers to require 24/7 visibility and tools that provide meaningful information from advanced analytics. Cold chain logistics has made significant advances in both process monitoring and technology in recent years. These advances deliver reliability and cost savings to better serve the customer. Monitoring devices now include sensors for location, shock, temperature, pressure, humidity, light, and more. This gives the customer 100% confidence in the integrity of the product at destination, and forces carriers to provide the best service possible. Technology has continued to evolve, and passive tracking tools were the first step towards meaningful data in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, real-time tracking and monitoring equipment creates actionable data that improves product security and logistics accountability. For the past 10 years, lack of visibility and control led to over $1 billion annually in stolen pharmaceutical goods in the U.S. To address this issue, cutting-edge software provides visibility to all products in the supply chain simultaneously, and helps streamline and galvanize routing decisions. These programs are generating data at never-before-seen rates and are changing the way logistics providers and pharmaceutical suppliers interact with their supply chains. One of the few remaining problems in supply-chain monitoring is that devices cannot report in real-time when they are out of cell range. This means that while your goods are in the air or far out to sea, the devices revert to data loggers instead of reporters, and update their tracking information when they again receive a data connection.

Across the industry, cold-chain monitoring has made vast improvements in security, efficacy, and reliability because of advances in technology and logistics expertise. The DOC has stated that “cold chain logistics spending in support of biopharma industry is more than $10 billion and is expected to grow to $13 billion by 2019.”1 This will require suppliers and their support teams to continue to advance and evolve to keep up with the demand. Cold-chain support for the Life Science industry has larger consequences to failure than other logistics branches because people’s lives depend on the product arriving safely and on time.

1. http://trade.gov/topmarkets/pdf/Cold_Chain_Executive_Summary.pdf