Article: Nine Key Learnings for Specialty Logistics during Covid-19

By Lloyd Henly

Commercial Supply Chain Leaders Share Their Experience during Virtual Roundtables

In June, World Courier hosted a series of virtual roundtables to discuss learnings with Senior Commercial Supply Chain leaders from across Europe.

Across all of the discussions, nine key themes emerged:

   1. React quickly

Avoid assuming that the contingencies built today are going to work forever. Some logistics partners adapted quickly and demonstrated great flexibility, which plays a major role when awarding future contracts. Post COVID-19, an escalation of decision making needs to be set up so that decisions can be made more rapidly across an organization.

2. Look internally

 Instead of focusing on the growing amount of regulation, companies can do a lot to expedite their processes. Focusing on what can’t be controlled has no determining influence on your ability to get products to patients.

3. Collaboration

Information sharing between partners, even with specialty logistics providers that you may not be working with directly, brings clarity. You should be able to receive weekly updates from an airfreight partner. World Courier’s latest operational updates are publicly available.

4. Global footprint 

Working with a logistics partner with a far broader geographical reach and being carrier independent significantly increases the chances of finding alternative routes when certain lanes have been restricted. Focus on sustaining connectivity through alternative flights, routing, and entry points.

5. Recognition and permits 

A global footprint makes it easier to obtain the correct documentation to continue operations in certain regions. World Courier experienced delays with customs, as many customs teams were reduced. But having people on the ground in constant contact with the authorities reduced this impact.

6. The consequence to air tariffs 

The industry has suffered some significant price increases but the EU and IATA have pushed to maintain reasonable costs.

7. Importance of ensuring an optimum supply chain risk analysis 

Certain customers mentioned that their risk analysis method for the supply of critical APIs wasn’t optimal and that this created considerable transport risks. A full review of logistics partners and future decisions based on the experiences through COVID-19 is recommended.

8. Decentralization and creating buffer stock 

The key is being agile and to better position the product, hence we’ve seen many supply chains shift to a more decentralized model to ensure the product was closer to the patient, which poses less risk. Including better orientation at the same level, or even reduced stock levels where possible is also recommended.

9. Diversified supplier base 

It’s important to have an active back up supplier when outsourcing transport. Rolling out a new flow does not often happen quickly. Back up suppliers need to be fully operational at any time.

At World Courier, for every country where we have operations, we have been actively monitoring the following key factors daily:

  • Country domestic shipments
  • International airfreights
  • Exports
  • Imports
  • Our operational status- Exports

Doing so has enabled us to focus our attention and resources on the countries most highly impacted by COVID-19. In a recent industry poll that World Courier conducted, 85.7% of respondents reported that their pharmaceutical supply chain was affected by COVID-19. We have been able to offer recommendations on diversifying supply chains from a geographic perspective to reduce supply-side risks from any country or region. Additionally, we’ve considered inventory strategy to buffer against future supply chain disruptions.

The Future of the Specialty Pharma Supply Chain

Given the pandemic, many changes to the way supply chain processes are managed in the long term are likely. Moving inventory closer to patient locations is going to be a predominant theme. As an example, in Montevideo, Uruguay we recently incorporated a partner depot which acts as a medication storage hub. Routes from Uruguay to other Latin American countries are shorter. This radically reduces delivery turnaround times when compared to shipments from the US or EU.

Meanwhile, instead of countries relying on one single region for APIs - we’re likely to see a rebalancing of APIs globally. For a deeper insight into the future of the supply chain and reducing supply chain disruptions, access our latest CSC whitepaper.

About the Author

Lloyd Henly

Product Manager, Commercial Supply Chain WEMEA
World Courier
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