Moving pharmaceuticals has always been a high-stakes job teeming with threats to bottom lines and, more importantly, human lives. The headwinds that pharma companies — as well as doctors and patients themselves — face were highlighted in 2020, as the logistics industry was saddled with the complex task of sourcing and delivering highly sensitive COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Research from Statista revealed that approximately $1.27 trillion was spent on medicines alone in the U.S. during 2020. With pharmaceutical spending reaching new heights, a single shipment can be worth millions of dollars, leading to monumental financial losses — as well as serious threats to human lives — in the event of a transportation or distribution excursion.
Focusing on improved real-time visibility, track and trace and actionable data insights helps companies across supply chains — including manufacturers, shippers, 3PLs, 4PLs and logistics services providers — prevent as many adverse outcomes as possible by allowing companies to visualize and address possible problems before they occur.
Tive recently conducted a survey of life sciences and pharmaceutical logistics professionals to better understand the current state of their shipping visibility, as well as their goals for the future, in light of these growing stakes. The results indicate that companies understand the need for next-generation real-time visibility solutions , and the industry as a whole is moving toward real-time critical shipment tracking.
While Tive’s survey made it clear that the overall state of visibility solutions in the industry has improved, some types of companies — including service providers, wholesalers and shippers — continue to hesitate when it comes to visibility adoption.
While 100% of surveyed 3PLs said their companies are equipped with a real-time visibility solution, only 70% of shippers and 43% of respondents in the packaging, wholesale and service provider categories said the same.
These numbers are expected to grow as real-time visibility continues to become a necessary part of doing business in the pharmaceutical sector. In fact, 85% of respondents said they plan to increase their investment in pharma cold chain over the next one to three years. A significant portion of that investment will likely be directed toward implementing the technology needed to do the job well.
The current lag in real-time visibility adoption — coupled with its increasing importance — means that visibility providers should be cognizant of this group of potential customers. Survey respondents noted that reputation was the most important factor to them when choosing a new visibility partner, and more than half of respondents said the top business benefit of improved visibility is eliminating product waste. These insights help providers better understand their untapped customer base, allowing them to make decisions now that will make them more attractive to these companies in the near future.
As companies in the pharma space work to safeguard their shipments, they should also be looking for visibility partners who provide a full suite of services, increasing their chances of success and reducing the number of different partnerships required to achieve safety and inefficiency goals.
A strong visibility partner should offer services like real-time visualization, actionable alerts, shipment analysis scorecards, cloud-based recordkeeping, non-lithium sensor batteries, around-the-clock monitoring, single- and multi-use trackers, better shipping predictability, and better inventory visibility.