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Key Logistics Trends


As the life sciences industry continues to expand, logistics’ approaches will become more specialized, regulated and complex, as aging populations and climate change result in more and  varied ailments and temperature-sensitive products are shipped to new markets, and even directly to patients, according to a study on life sciences’ logistics’ trends over the next five to 10 years.

KEY LOGISTICS TRENDS IN LIFE SCIENCES 2020+ A DHL perspective on how to prepare for future growth, prepared by DHL and research partner Z_punkt The Foresight Company, examines how societal shifts will affect trends in the life sciences industry and how logistics companies can prepare for and respond to the changes.

“By developing and maintaining the ability to adapt supply chains, companies in the life sciences sector will be well prepared to seize the opportunities ahead,” noted the report.

The world market for pharmaceuticals has doubled within a decade, according to the report, reaching a value of about USD 1 trillion and is expected to grow an additional 3 to 6 percent yearly until 2016. Strong growth rates in the medical device market also are anticipated until 2020.

Greater visibility will be necessary

Among the major trends cited is a move to “more differentiated supply chains, with the mode of transportation, warehousing and depth of distribution tailored to different life sciences product categories.” Greater visibility will be necessary in supply chains, for security and to ensure the integrity of the supply chain.

“One of the most important trends we see is the implementation of Good Distribution Practices (GDP) to ensure that the quality and the integrity of medicinal products are maintained throughout the supply chain. Marken recognized this trend early, and we have already begun implementing GDP certifications throughout our supply chain network,” according to Ariette Van Strien, chief commercial officer for Marken, a global supply chain service provider. “Another key trend is the development of an extensive supply chain network to enable patients to be reached anywhere they are in the world. At Marken we have spent the last few years building a global network of industry experts, warehouses and depots, which allow us to transport our clients’ products to and from even the most remote locations.”
“The forecasts all seem to be pointing to a future of greater customization, transparency and accountability in the pharmaceutical supply chain,” noted Sam Herbert, chief operating officer of World Courier. “What we’re seeing is an increase in the complexity of customer needs; more specific ranges for temperature control, higher demands for data and supply chain solutions that are tailored to the individual needs of a product. These are all core areas of expertise for World Courier.”

The company is seeing many of the same trends in the pharmaceutical supply chain market that others are predicting: evolving and more stringent regulatory requirements, continued development of interest in serving emerging markets more effectively and the growing need to transport increasingly complex and expensive medications, Herbert said.

“As pharmaceutical manufacturers look to create greater cost efficiencies, the value of a global logistics partner becomes even more apparent and the market for global supply chain solutions should continue to increase,” he added.

New solutions

Shipping companies in the life sciences’ sector should keep supply chains flexible to adapt to new regulatory standards and the distribution requirements of innovative products, DHL noted. “We expect more temperature-differentiated supply-chain solutions, as well as infrastructures adaptable for product bundles and more personalized medicines and implants,” the report noted.

Expanding markets and manufacturers’ and consumer demands have a strong influence on packaging and tracking service offerings, suggested Van Strien. “The industry is moving toward tracking models built around highly sophisticated GPS tracking that will alert someone as soon as a package is even slightly outside its planned route,” she said. “Additionally new developments in packaging will allow for greater durability and longer periods at controlled temperatures.”

“The need to adapt supply chains to new regulatory standards and distribution requirements is both the biggest challenge and opportunity,” Herbert continued. “Especially with orphan drugs and other higher-priced commercial products, manufacturers have little tolerance for delayed or compromised shipments.”