Three Technologies Impacting Pharmaceutical Third-Party LogisticsJillian Yang
With all the challenges facing the global supply chain in recent years, including materials and labor shortages, it comes as no surprise that third-party logistics (3PL) providers are looking to utilize cutting edge technologies to create more operational efficiencies and lower costs. When adding in the complexities of the pharmaceutical supply chain – where drugs must be handled with extreme care– the role of technology in reducing error is more important than ever.
As technologies advance along with lessons learned from the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry is adapting and expects their 3PL partners to be technologically advanced. A recent 2023 3PL Study found that 75% of companies stated that technology played a greater role in evaluations and selection of 3PLs. The supply chain is becoming increasingly digitized and the ability for partners to integrate and share data will improve inventory tracking and the real-time data available can help improve efficiency.
According to Accenture’s 2021 State of Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Industry Report, the greatest challenge facing those supporting the pharmaceutical supply chain is real-time visibility into every part of it. In fact, their survey of supply chain executives found that supplier manufacturing visibility and visibility of product in transit and ETA topped the list as top challenges facing the industry as a whole.
There is great urgency to develop solutions to these pressing issues to support the continued growth of the industry. Acumen Research and Consulting found that the market for global biopharmaceutical third-party logistics is expected to reach $195.75 billion by 2030. As the industry grows, so will the demand for 3PL partners who have the knowledge and expertise to securely transport highly sensitive drugs.
Poised for massive growth over the next decade, pharmaceutical 3PL providers have a tremendous opportunity to innovate by implementing new technologies that deliver more insights – and ultimately ROI – to their customers.
Here’s how some of these new technologies are being utilized to do just that.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Pharmaceuticals are often highly temperature sensitive so the cold chain is one of the biggest drivers of technology solutions. This is due to the fact that even the smallest error somewhere along the supply chain network can cause spoilage and lead to devastating product loss. To that end, pharmaceutical executives have identified up to 20% spoilage rates for non-COVID-19 vaccine wastage due to temperature failures in transport. These temperature excursions are estimated to cost healthcare shippers a whopping $34 billion annually.
The Internet of Things (IoT) offers an innovative solution to monitor products across every part of the network in real-time. IoT describes the network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to allow for the ability to transfer and exchange data over the internet.
The market for cold chain IoT tech was worth an estimated $4.79 billion in 2021– and for good reason. The real-time aspect of IoT for temperature, location, etc., is a game-changer when it comes to transporting drugs because it allows a company to pinpoint exactly where and when the error occurred.
With all the hype around self-driving vehicles, it should come as no surprise that automation is one of the biggest trends impacting the logistics industry right now. Along with significant labor shortages affecting the entire supply chain from warehousing to logistics, 3PL companies are looking to automate to alleviate labor challenges and manage order fulfillment more efficiently.
Human error can be expensive when shipping any type of product, but especially so when it comes to pharmaceuticals which are often very costly to manufacture and handle. To address this along with pressing labor shortages, many 3PLs are investing in robotics and automated storage and retrieval processes. Some companies may also look to even more advanced technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, to help drive more operational efficiencies.
By automating more of their processes, 3PL providers can more effectively manage their costs. The 2019 Third Party Logistics Study from Kornferry found that 3PLs who incorporate automation into their new facilities may have an edge over competitors because it allows them to offer lower rates.
Outside of monetary costs, a shipping delay can also mean the difference between patients receiving life-saving medication on time or not, so automating processes wherever possible is vital.
Data & Analytics
At any point in time, 3PL providers are taking in a massive amount of data about the products they are moving. This aggregated data can then be used to help them visualize the complete supply chain and plan for any potential disruptions. When asked about current investments to improve operational efficiency, 3PL providers ranked data analytics and visibility as a top priority.
This data can also be used to drive value and develop stronger relationships with customers. By sharing valuable forecast and planning data, 3PL providers and their partners have the opportunity to work together to prepare for any future challenges.
In an industry where the stakes are so high, the value of real-time data to drive decision-making and future planning cannot be overstated.
As both the healthcare and 3PL industries add new technologies, 3PLs will need to be agile so they can adapt and integrate new data sources and the needs of their partners. If you adapt quickly, this increase in data and sources can only help you become more efficient while being as reliable as ever at managing risk and compliance.
LogiCare3PL, a BioCare company, delivers customized third-party logistics solutions for specialty pharmaceutical drug makers. We are committed to providing our partners with the most customized solutions. To learn more about partnering with LogiCare3PL, please contact us here.