menu toggle

Podcast: Real-time monitoring for healthier patient outcomes

By World Courier

This episode was recorded in April 2023

Real-time monitoring for healthier patient outcomes. The future of pharma logistics.


In this episode podcast, we bring together two experts in the field of pharma logistics:

  • Simon Brinckman Senior Director Business Excellence & Innovation, at World Courier, a leading provider of specialty pharma cold chain logistics
  • Hristo Petkov – VP of Partnerships at Controlant, a cutting-edge provider of location monitoring devices.

The discussion centers on the current state and future of pharma logistics, with a focus on the impact of technology and innovation. Our guests share their unique perspectives and engage in a lively debate on the challenges facing the industry and the potential solutions for overcoming them.

The pharmaceutical logistics industry has undergone significant advancements in recent years, with the emergence of innovative technologies and innovations that are revolutionizing the transportation and monitoring of products. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this transformation, as companies strive to adopt new technologies in order to optimize, improve and revolutionize their operations. With the increased availability of real-time information about retail and food deliveries from consumer companies, customers are demanding higher levels of transparency and accountability.

In this podcast, our guests will discuss the latest advancements in the industry, including the introduction of location monitoring devices as standard for all multi-use-packaging by World Courier, and how these devices are changing the game for pharma logistics.

The debate will touch on several other key topics, including:

  • The importance of maintaining the integrity of pharma products during transportation.
  • The role of technology in facilitating the safety and quality of pharma products during transport.
  • The data we get from monitoring devices, which is meaningless unless you do something with it. What we should, and can do with the data, such as intervening before things go wrong.
  • How hard tracking pharma shipments is, as the technology needs to be reliable in many environments, temperatures, humidity, pressures etc. How Controlant have solved the challenges with their technology.
  • Criticality of validation - a systematic and comprehensive evaluation process to ensure that packaging systems and its components are suitable for maintaining the required temperature range during storage and transportation of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products.

With World Courier's extensive experience in providing pharma logistics, and Controlant's expertise in developing innovative location monitoring devices, this episode proved to be a thought-provoking and informative listen.



Emma Banks: Welcome to the latest World Courier insights podcast on the importance of real-time monitoring in pharma logistics. I'm your guest host today, Emma Banks, CEO of Ramarketing, and I'm excited to bring together two experts in the field of pharma logistics to discuss the latest advancements in the industry. A warm welcome to Simon Brinckmann, Senior Director of Business Excellence and Innovation at World Courier. Our guest today is Hristo Petkov, VP of Partnerships at Controlant, a global leader in the digital transformation of pharma supply chains. Today we'll explore the impact of technology and innovation on the transportation and monitoring of products, as well as the challenges facing the industry and the potential solutions for overcoming them.

So first up for you, Simon. What is real-time monitoring and what role does it play in ensuring pharmaceutical shipments are transported and stored under the right conditions and that also maintain their quality and safety?

Simon Brinckmann: Advances in technology continue to unlock new ways to manage and monitor the shipment of pharmaceutical products. Real-time monitoring is the ability to track pharmaceutical products, raw materials, and other related items in real-time as they move through the supply chain. This includes monitoring their location, temperature, shock, and other key parameters to ensure that they're transported and stored under conditions that maintain their quality and safety. It's increasingly important to monitor and react in real-time with the rise of biopharmaceuticals and personalized medicines. The need for secure, reliable, and efficient supply chains is more critical than ever.

Emma: And Hristo, anything to add?

Hristo Petkov: Yes. Hi Emma, and thanks for having me on the podcast. It is pleasure to also speak together with Simon on this topic. To add to his point, there is a growing need for visibility and transparency in the transport of pharmaceutical products and to utilize the data to drive improved services and to ensure peace of mind and satisfaction to customers.

What I have seen today is that many shippers do not know where the products are, even though they have their own tracking solutions, the logistics companies that have tracking solutions, and even all of this tracking is being done. There is still a lot of data silos and nothing really works so much together. There is no possibility to align demand with supply. For me, also to add, real-time visibility is created through technology devices or sensors that allow for improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Emma: Thanks, Hristo. Simon, how does real-time monitoring data reduce the risk of delays, losses, or damage to medicines?

Simon: The data we get is captured by location monitoring devices which are then embedded either in our packaging or on the shipments themselves, and that's transmitted in real-time to a centralized monitoring system for operations teams to then act on accordingly. Having the data alone simply isn't enough. Logistics teams must act based on the insights that the data provides. The data itself does not solve any problems. Instead, it needs to be analyzed and acted upon to prevent excursions, mitigate risks, and ultimately optimize our operations. Further, understanding when, where, and why challenges occur is critical to ensuring that we continue to improve - driving efficiency and effectiveness across the network.

Emma: Over to you Hristo. These devices, what are they and how do they work?

Hristo: The device really fits in one's hand. There are validated IoT loggers. Eight of the top 20 pharma companies have approved them. They record temperature and geo-location. They run by a 4G, cellular network using non-lithium dry cell batteries and you can recharge them plugging them in a USB.

They can record from minus 20 degrees Celsius to plus 50 degrees Celsius. Also, if you put a probe to them with an extension, they can record in minus 20 degrees. What's interesting is that, besides temperature, they also record real-time geo-faced location and they use wifi for triangulation of location. They can send real-time alerts. They have an LED screen that shows indications.

But besides the technical specs, what's interesting is we have 2.3 million devices in use these devices, they're also connected to a validated platform. Probably, what you're interested also to hear is that they're reusable, which means low emission footprint, durable and extended lifespan of the devices, and also, they drive circular design, which enables customers to deliver on their climate strategies and goals, to which I'm sure a World Courier is very keen on.

Emma: Thank you. So both of you have touched on the importance of data analysis and using insights to optimize logistics operations. Simon, can you share some examples of how location-monitoring devices have helped patient outcomes?

Simon: I think working in this industry is an incredible privilege, and with that comes a tremendous responsibility because at the end of each of our shipments is a patient, a human being, and that's something that drives everything that we do. So making sure that we get the right shipment to the right person at the right time across an incredibly complex global supply chain is a massive undertaking. Having visibility of all aspects of that journey is critical and a non-negotiable component of being able to deliver that effectively.

A great example is the case of highly advanced therapeutics, where samples are taken from a critically ill patient, moved across the globe, used for the development of a bespoke therapy, and shipped back to the patient. All in the matter of only a few days. Any delay or excursion with these journeys can have a very real implication on the well-being of that patient, and that's where location monitoring is absolutely critical.

Emma: Hristo, what advice do you have for companies looking to implement real-time monitoring systems in their pharmaceutical cold chain logistics operations?

Hristo: A few things to consider possibly is the internal versus the outsourcing from people who specialize in real-time visibility. If you look around the industry, a lot of companies want to do it themselves. Some outsource it.

It's a matter of choosing the right vendor or running with the project. It does take effort, and it's change management that needs to be implemented, creating SOPs and different ways of working to implement it. Like I mentioned, the technology is available, it's out there. It shouldn't be something that is always talked about and not acted upon. My recommendation is to just do it.

We are very happy that World Courier have chosen to outsource it from us. We, of course, want to focus on World Courier's needs. After all, we do this for the customers and we want to drive continuous improvement. This is also what the companies that are looking to implement real-time monitoring should focus on.

Simon: I think you've hit on some key points, Hristo. One of the things that was really critical for us when we went to this journey was making sure that we understood what problem we were trying to solve. Having the device, having a piece of tech, as I mentioned earlier, having some data alone is not enough to solve a business problem. It's part of the solution to a business problem. Being very clear about what your business problem is. Whether it's location-monitoring or temperature-monitoring or some combination thereof, how that will help solve your problem is really important that you're clear and aligned on.

The next part for me, of course, was making sure that we could find the right partner to solve it. For many logistics providers, pharma companies, et cetera, to be quite frank, they aren’t technology companies. Embarking on a multi-year journey to go and build this technology from scratch yourself may feel like it's bringing you some benefit. You're probably not going to realise the full value of it. There are organisations out there who offer it. The key trick for us was not finding a vendor, but finding a business partner. Someone who's going to walk with us on this journey who has shared values or a shared sense of purpose and it's very clear on why we are doing this.

For us of course, this is about helping drive healthier outcomes ultimately for the patients at the end of the journey. Understanding what the problem is, how this is going to contribute to solving it. Bear in mind there are other things, as Hristo mentioned. You have to do process changes, probably change it around your analytics environment, be work instructions, all of those types of things and then finding the right partner. Someone who's going to walk with you on this journey is probably the single biggest success factor for me. If you get that right, the project is not mind-blowingly difficulty implement at scale.

Emma: Thanks Both. Really interesting insight. Simon as a senior leader in the pharmaceutical logistics industry. What is your ask to the industry regarding the importance of real-time monitoring in ensuring the safety and quality of pharmaceutical products during transportation and storage?

Simon: I think reliability across the supply chain is key to ensuring that patients actually receive the medication that they need. Shipment losses cost money, they lose time, both of which have an impact on access to medication. This is especially important when we remember that there's a human being at the end of this. Something I've spoken about quite a lot today, but it's something we need to keep reminding ourselves.

We're not moving widgets around the world, we're moving medicines to people who need them and our entire purpose is aligned throughout that. Incredible technology now exists to improve transparency and reliability across these supply chains. Paired with effective processes and deep insight, we, the industry needs to adopt it now for the sake of patient outcomes.

Emma: Great, thank you. A final question for you both. Can you share your perspectives on the future of real-time monitoring in pharmaceutical logistics? What advancements do you see on the horizon? Let's start with Hristo.

Hristo: I believe there is bright future ahead of us and also in pharma logistics. There is also so much that we are focusing on looking into better visibility, more automation quality, and driving different data. The way I would like to answer this question is to think about the product life cycle when a product is manufactured in a factory and maybe disregard that also the APIs active product ingredients need to come from somewhere, but let's take it from the manufacturing of a product formulation to the time a patient takes a product.

There is so many things that could happen along the way. First of all the way you collect data. There is very few temperature sensors or loggers that can follow the product today. There needs to be the possibility to collect data from the very beginning, from manufacturing the product, going through several suppliers on the logistics stage, possibly a hospital or pharmacy before the warehouse to the patient. How do you incorporate this data and you put it in one platform?

That means that potentially, and we are looking into IoT labels and different technology that would be able to collect different types of data or also the IoT labels that you'll be able to stick on the product. They'll be super clean and they'll be able to track the product. We are speaking of a unit-level tracking from production to consumption by a patient.

Imagine a patient receiving a product, what do they want to find out? First of all, the pharma company wants to know is this the right patient that I'm delivering the product. We're speaking two-phase authentication where the logistics company knows that they're delivering the product to the right patient, but then on the other side, the patient wants to know, is this product a quality product? Can I consume this product?

Then by scanning the leaflet of the product, they would know that the temperature and the validity of the products is in the right condition. That would also enable pharmaceutical companies to know that they have delivered the right product to the right patient. They would be able to connect supply with demand. That would also eliminate counterfeit medicine and repurposing of medicine. They will know that the right product is going to the right market.

That means that throughout the supply chain, there will be a lot of improvements. There will be better visibility at the airports, at the warehouses, at the harbours or the terminals. All of these all together would be able to address the carbon footprint topic and sustainability. There will be no product or very little product waste and the right products would be produced. If I get to choose what's going to happen in the next five to 10 years, this is more or less the picture I would like to see where everything would be optimized and made right to fit with the patients in mind. With that, I'll pass it to Simon.

Simon: I think if we take a step back, the pharmaceutical market and the clinical trials market has changed and it's changed a lot over the last three or four years and we're continuing to see that evolution. We're moving to a world that has a far greater prevalence of decentralized trials of the rise of cell and gene therapies and bespoke modern really advanced therapies for people who have much smaller patient populations. This is a world in which global supply chain still haven't recovered from the pandemic. By that, I mean everything down to the number of aircraft inside of the sky, the changing world in which we operate continues to introduce complexity and risk and ultimately cost to pharma companies, and to patients ultimately.

To try and manage some of that risk and to try and make sure we provide an incredibly efficient and effective service.

At World Courier, we're deploying a real-time location monitoring solution on all of our multi-use shipments, enabling increased visibility into the precise location of our shipments in transit globally. We see this as the next step of our journey to driving databased innovation and moving the industry forward. This is just a building block to a faster, better and more insight-led future completely oriented around creating healthier futures and increasing access to healthcare worldwide.

Hristo: Emma, Simon, I just want to jump in and say, first of all, Emma, thanks for hosting this session. To Simon thanks for this podcast, but also to a lot of insightful and good discussions and also appreciation to World Courier trusting our solution, and not being only a customer but having the partnership to grow together. Thank you so much.

Emma: Absolute pleasure. Hristo.

Simon: Thank you very much, Hristo. Thanks for joining us on our podcast today.

Emma: Thank you, Simon, and thank you Hristo for sharing your expertise and perspectives on the importance of real-time monitoring in pharma logistics, and its impact on patient safety and product quality. As our experts highlighted the future of real-time monitoring is full of possibilities. With new advancements and innovations on the horizon, we look forward to seeing how these developments will continue to drive progress in the pharmaceutical logistics industry, ultimately benefiting patients and improving healthcare outcomes.

Thanks for listening to this insightful discussion.


Our speakers

Simon Brinckmann

GettyImages-483533237_RGB_Large_JPG (1)

Want to hear more?

World Courier insights podcast

In each episode, we unpack what's going on in the news, focusing on the issues and challenges facing the sector.