4 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Life Science Supply Chain
Zero: that’s the amount of failure you can tolerate in a life science supply chain solution.
Whether it’s transporting a life-saving drug or managing a sensitive distribution of samples, you need a partner that can guarantee your deliveries will arrive safely, on time and be placed in the hands of the intended recipient.
Finding a supply chain solution partner isn’t always easy. You need to find people with expertise, the right infrastructure and an understanding of the difficulties involved in transporting biopharmaceuticals. You also need to find a true partner – a company that will communicate with you and offer visibility throughout the entire process.
When searching for the right supply chain solution, there are four key things to consider:
1. Transportation services
All logistics solution providers essentially offer the same thing: they get your package from A to B. However, there is a world of difference in the way they go about doing this. It is essential that you know everything about the basics: whether they have suitable vehicles for transporting your goods, their estimated timeframe for delivery, security protocols in transit, and so on.
There are also some finer details about which you should inquire, such as the availability of:
- Next Flight Out (NFO)
NFO doesn’t literally mean that your package will be on the next flight departing. NFO means that your logistics partner will look at all available transportation options, including by air or by land, and plot the journey that results in the earliest possible arrival time for your cargo.
- Temperature Controlled
Temperature control issues can occur at any point in transit. The most dangerous temperature failures are those that occur in mid-transit, potentially causing damage to your cargo that is undetectable. Your logistics partner must not only understand the handling requirements of your temperature controlled packaging solution but should offer real time temperature monitoring devices to eliminate risk of temperature excursions, product & monetary loss.
- Routed Medical Delivery
Longer transits require multi-stage journeys, and each stage is a potential failure point in the delivery process. Look for a logistics solution that offers full control over routing so that the package arrives on time and in perfect condition.
- Hand Carry
Also known as the on-board courier service, hand carry means that a courier personally carries your shipment from the point of origin to the final destination. This ensures safety and quality. Plus, there’s the logistic advantage of having a human being who can confirm that the delivery ends up in the right hands.
- Clinical Trials
Security and accountability are especially important during the trial phase, requiring your supply chain channel to deliver such values as accuracy, traceability and monitoring.
- Aircraft charter
When time is of the essence, it may be necessary to charter a flight. Your logistics partner should have the capacity to arrange this, plus the infrastructure to do so without incurring exorbitant costs.
- Same day local courier
Final mile delivery is often where the logistic process falls apart. Make sure that your chosen logistic partner has this covered with a reliable network of local couriers who can get your delivery into the hands of the end recipient.
When your cargo is in transit, you become entirely dependent on your logistic partner to ensure a successful delivery. If your partner isn’t communicative, then the delivery process becomes extremely stressful, as you find yourself unable to answer client questions about the delivery or confirm the cargo’s current status.
Before entering an agreement, you should establish the logistic solution provider’s approach to communication. Ask questions such as:
- Will I have an account manager that I can directly contact with queries?
- Is support available outside of office hours?
- What is your turnaround time for queries?
- Will I be able to make direct contact with the driver?
- How will you contact the recipient to confirm delivery?
- Will you proactively contact us if there are queries or an issue arises?
Check reviews of the company online and make sure to pay attention to any feedback related to communication from other customers.
Both internal and external compliance issues are an important consideration in any supply chain solution. For example:
- Statutory Compliance
You are ultimately responsible for Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA) and Good Distribution Practices (GDP) compliance, so you need to ensure that you work with a partner who can support you in your obligations. Ideally, you should look for a partner who has been recently audited and certified to be compliant. It’s also a good idea to have meetings with potential partners and ensure they understand how to support you, both in terms of meeting standards, performing audits and keeping necessary records.
- Standards and Best Practices
Experience is the most important asset for a logistics company when it comes to aligning with your quality procedures. Companies with substantial experience in the field of life sciences will have an understanding of your obligations under FDA quality system regulations and ISO standards. They will also be able to sit down and talk about how to help ensure the highest possible standards throughout transit.
- Loss Prevention
Loss and fraud are serious issues that are not only potential compliance problems but can also threaten the welfare of patients. Try to find a logistics partner who understands the responsibilities involved and has protocols in place to minimize such problems. Remember – transparency and communication are key to preventing loss.
When shopping around for a supply chain solution, the main question you’ll ask yourself is “Can I trust these people?” You are so dependent on these people to do what they say, and the consequences are dire if you later discover that they weren’t fully trustworthy.
Trust shouldn’t really come into things if you have visibility. Some modern logistics partners use technology to give you so much live information that it’s almost as if you were driving the truck yourself. This is a standard you should demand from potential partners because it’s the only way to be absolutely certain that your shipments are arriving correctly.
Talk to logistic partners and ask them questions like:
- What kind of monitoring is available for goods in transit?
- Can you provide me with a live information dashboard?
- Does your dashboard provide push notifications?
- Is this information verifiable? Has your technology been externally audited?
- How do you continue monitoring deliveries when vehicles are outside of communication areas, i.e. at sea?
- Will a record of transit data be provided to me upon completion?
Logistics technology is still evolving, and each company will provide a different solution. The more information you can obtain during transit, the less you’ll have to worry about the security of your shipment.
Don’t forget, this is very much about partnership. You’re not just looking for someone to sell you a supply chain solution, you’re looking for someone to work with you to ensure accuracy and quality at every step in the delivery process. Getting this right is as important as getting manufacturing and marketing right.
Is there anything that we’ve left out here? What do you think is the most important thing to consider when looking for a supply chain solution? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to download your free report.