Amsterdam Schiphol Airport takes too little advantage of the booming market for pharmaceutical logistics. The main aim of the recent Pharma Day organised by the umbrella organisation Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN) was to assess what actions ought to be taken.
According to ACN, the initiative was inspired by remarks from the shippers that the existing flows seem to ‘leak away’ from Schiphol to neighbouring airports such as Brussels, Luxembourg and
Frankfurt. What shippers need are qualitative and reliable processes and facilities throughout the different participants in the air cargo chain which, in their opinion, cannot not be
sufficiently demonstrated when Amsterdam is used.
This remark is at odds with research carried out by students of Hogeschool Amsterdam, ((commissioned by ACN) which concluded that Schiphol is an airport that scores most favourably in the fulfilment of shippers’ needs. The main recommendation of the study was that more attention be given to active communication.
The pros and cons of certification
The central question brought forward at the ACN Parma Day was: “Pharma is good for the Schiphol market place, but is the Schiphol market place good (enough) for Pharma?” Invited to answer it were representatives of all the actors: shippers, forwarders, truckers, airlines, handlers and service providers.
In its report on the event, ACN highlights three topics for debate. On the first one, 'Schiphol has been ready for pharma for a long time’, the overall feeling was that the cool chain has not been 100% guaranteed. This should be possible given today’s technology.
The second premise stated that certification mainly brings bureaucracy. Most of the audience did not agree, arguing that certification may help a company to distinguish itself. Certification is important, but should not be turned into a goal in its own right.
The reactions were mixed on the premise that continuous monitoring holds the key. Some argued that keeping your business in order makes monitoring irrelevant. The crux of the matter is to get the chain as a whole to collaborate as one virtual organisation. In fact, both monitoring and collaboration are necessary.
One of the conclusions of the debate was that pharmaceutical enterprises are convinced that transport and logistics are very important. Without decent logistics, it is impossible to sell. Certification is not intended as a quality system, but rather as a way to prevent badly handled medicines to enter the market.
Collaboration is the answer. In a small market like Schiphol all the actors must work together to make a difference to other airports. An important remark was made on the issue of global standards for the entire industry. Several hallmarks seem to create dissension and obscurity. GDP (Good Distribution Practices) could be a first step. ACN says that the Pharma Day event should be considered as a foundation stone for further constructive discussions. The organisation has committed itself to organising follow-up brainstorming sessions in the near future.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels