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There are an  increasing number of carriers that are specialised in pharmacy logistics or transport services for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. It requires knowledge, preparation and experience. In order to bring the benefits of pharmaceuticals and medical devices to patients and provide logistical support to manufacturers, an operator must not only have knowledge of the healthcare sector but also understand the processes that make it specific.

Sensitive products, end-to-end documentation (throughout the supply chain) and complex procedures – these are what the conditions in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors look like. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry is highly resistant to trends and economic conditions. Year on year, it’s growing. Pharmaceutical companies have been investing in Poland for years, building production plants and distribution centres, but also developing research and development departments. In such a situation, the increase in demand for logistics of raw materials, API (active pharmaceutical ingredients) and finished products is natural. Thus, the demand for specialized logistics services for the pharmaceutical sector is growing.

In the pharmaceutical industry, each project requires the development of a model of cooperation and process adjustment. Products have their own unique characteristics and their logistics require a thorough understanding of customer needs and the provision of dedicated solutions. The process of concluding contracts in the pharmaceutical industry is by definition not a simple one: these are not fast transactions where only the price counts,” explained Norbert Pająk, VM Healthcare development manager in DB Schenker’s aviation business, in a statement for one of the industry magazines.

Norbert Pająk emphasized that trust, security and quality are of key importance in cooperation, both in terms of business and human resources.

Each pharmaceutical and medical shipment is unique, so an individual approach is required. Knowledgeable and trained staff play a key role.

Different product groups have different requirements. Pharmaceutical law defines, for example, that the storage and transport of medicines takes place within strictly defined temperature ranges (the shipper is obliged to provide information about this). The specific nature of the goods also determines the maximum air humidity, which should be ensured during storage and transport.                  

Logistics in pharmaceuticals usually means deliveries are more frequent than in other industries, which also include smaller quantities of goods.

Further key challenges are as follows:

– high-quality requirements,

– extremely low tolerance to errors,

– multiple daily deliveries (resulting in peak orders),

– a large variety of product packaging shapes (handling/picking requirements).

Amendment of the law made outsourcing easier.

Until a few years ago, pharmaceutical manufacturers used their own warehouse and distribution space or pharmaceutical wholesalers to a large extent. Cooperation with outsourcers was hampered by the lack of legal regulations (as a result, there was uncertainty about the quality of services).

The trend changed with the introduction of restrictive guidelines and regulations, including GDP (Good Distribution Practice), which imposed an obligation on logistics partners to maintain the highest quality of services. Currently, the outsourcing of logistics services is becoming the most popular form of warehouse management and distribution. However, many logistics companies still do not meet the high requirements of the healthcare industry – not only at the level of infrastructure or IT systems but also due to lack of experienced personnel and access to specialist consulting services,” explained Emilia Stąpór-Kowalska, business development manager at Arvato SCM Solutions in Poland, in “TOP Logistyka”.

Outsourcing (transition from own distribution to solutions offered by external companies) is becoming more and more popular because:

– the experience of logistics operators is growing and they are able to adapt more easily to stringent legal regulations;

– logistics partners offer much greater flexibility – both in terms of solutions and staffing;

– logistics partners are able to respond quickly to changing legislation and sudden changes in e.g. order quantities, increase productivity or the number of employees trained to work in the warehouse;

– access to specialist knowledge is increased (logistics companies’ experts, thanks to the implementation of various projects in the pharmaceutical industry, can design advanced solutions that increase process efficiency and optimize costs).

Pharmacy logistics requires close cooperation.

The process of distributing medicines and other medical devices has specific characteristics, and the shipper and the carrier must work closely together, under precisely defined conditions.

For Arvato, the operating procedure for most healthcare clients is similar – especially if it concerns warehousing and distribution to hospitals or pharmacies. The tasks related to the delivery of medical products directly to the patient form a separate group.

Process steps:

– placing an order by a hospital pharmacy subordinate to the facility where the patient is treated;

– receipt of the order by Arvato Customer Service;

– redirecting the order to the manufacturer’s warehouse serviced by Arvato;

– order picking (including the addition of e.g. medication delivery kits, disinfectants, etc.);

– shipment by a controlled means of transport to the hospital pharmacy;

– verification of the order by the pharmacist and its acceptance;

– delivery to the patient.

Also in DSV, a model example of cooperation is considered to be the parallel service of many ranges of services provided, i.e. wholesale service, customs service, services within the Manufacturer’s/GMP Warehouse, importer’s warehouse service, FTL, pallet and parcel transport in a controlled temperature.  Goods may be neutral or have a specific class. Each product has different properties and parameters, so before the preparation of the shipment, everything is carefully checked.

From the point of view of customs clearance, pharmaceuticals require an MSDS card (Material Safety Data Sheet), a Good Manufacturing Practice Certificate and an entry in the National Register of Manufacturers, Importers and Distributors of Active Substances GIF (Main Pharmaceutical Inspectorate).

Photo: Pixabay

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