Pharma Supply Chain Calls for New Forwarder Thinking

“Forwarders must learn to be flexible and tailor solutions as the pharma supply chain becomes more complex.”
The above was stated by Naomi Landman, IJS Global Director, at the Flypharma Conference in London ten days ago.

Temp sensitive pharmaceuticals flown by Cargolux  /  courtesy CV
Temp sensitive pharmaceuticals flown by Cargolux / courtesy CV

Nothing really new to what she states, but an important remark as indeed the pharmaceutical industry does become more complex and the needs and demands of the shippers are seen to be somewhat overlooked by the transportation sector.

Recent reports showed that the maritime sector has caught on more quickly to the changing needs and regulations for this lucrative form of transport.
It is said that the aviation sector is being too slow in coming up with better ideas how to streamline and speed up the transport mode within the supply chain.
Airlines realize that the pharma business still means far better revenues but also incurs higher investment in own facilities and containers.

Pharma going through a major transition
This is the message that Naomi tried to put over to her audience.
She broadened her message by stating that “pharmaceutical logistics is a time demanding, time critical industry that requires the immediate availability of insight whilst appreciating the client’s sensitive needs and requirements.”

Why is it becoming more complex?
Purely, she says, because technological advances, as well as tax, regulatory and market demands are driving change and making the pharma supply chain more complex.
In order for the freight forwarders, airport handlers and carriers to be able to keep up with this change, more specialized training is necessary.
It’s not just the training what counts. The forwarding industry has to have staff on hand who really know how to put what they learn into practice.
One can only achieve this when the air cargo industry has people on board who are constantly au-fait with issues, trends and future demands within the pharma industry.

The playing field is often changing
IJS Global has made their own move to gain a far better insight by starting to recruit logistics specialists directly from the pharma industry who can bring firsthand experience and knowledge into the company.

Major airlines who are placing value on the carriage of pharma products have also got moving by creating internal departments solely for “pharma & fresh” handling and carriage.
Good moves, but one has to bear in mind that the pharmaceutical industry basically has one set of rules which affect all carriers or maritime companies.
Admittedly, these rules and regulations change quite often as the industry itself grows.
Many carriers now have their own “cool-chain” product which has to fit into the supply chain from shipper to consignee.
In the middle are the airport handlers who are obliged to also provide state-of-the-art cooling facilities, sometimes at enormous cost to themselves.
In this respect, there should be a collective, consolidated effort to supply the same method of handling and understanding of regulatory issues within the chain.

Only then will one reach a stage where costs and investment for the pharma handling will be more transparent.

John Mc Donagh

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