Big changes are afoot in the pharmaceutical air freight sector as it adapts to market, regulatory and technological trends. Surya Kannoth...
Global handling standards of pharmaceutical goods has always been essential for the air cargo industry to improve its share of the $60 billion a year pharma logistics market. The industry needs to meet customer demands for the integrity of their goods, while complying with increasing amounts of regulation from global authorities.
The industry has to deal with very tight regulations but, unfortunately, there is no single standard. With each region in a country introducing different regulations, it has a major effect on the supply chain. The GDP certificate and IATA’s CEIV certifications represent the first steps towards a unitized standard for the air transport of pharmaceutical goods. IATA’s initiative, the Centre of Excellence for Independent Validation in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) has now been successfully piloted, and is rapidly gaining acceptance as a universal, independent and comprehensive compliance and training scheme.
CAL became the first group to implement IATA's Center of Excellence for Independent Validators Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV) certification for both its freighter airline and cargo ground handling operations. The Liege-hubbed group’s road feeder services and other ground handlers are also validated by the CEIV, which means it provides “end-to-end pharma capabilities that conform to the highest standards” said CAL.
“New regulations have caused an increase in the amount of temperature controlled shipments. The higher demand comes from shippers that drive the forwarders to comply. CAL positions itself in the frontline of providing solutions and complying with these demands and we see that the market recognizes it, hence CAL’s business in this sector is increasing,” said Navot Hirschhorn, temperature controlled and special products manager with CAL Cargo.
In support of IATA’s CEIV pharma certification, Alan Dorling, Global Head Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences at IAG Cargo said, “We must remember that these drugs are intended for human consumption; ensuring their integrity is, therefore, an absolute priority. It is also worth mentioning that the cost of pharmaceuticals can be very high; with shipments often worth many millions of pounds. As such, it is incumbent on us to do all within our power to ensure products arrive to market in perfect condition.”
“To meet these challenges it is vital that we are absolutely compliant with all relevant regulations and that our staff have the right training. All of our 106 Constant Climate network stations are fully quality approved, audited, meet the IATA Chapter17 Regulations and are GDP compliant. We also invest in our people to ensure they can meet the needs of our customers at all times with one of the most in-depth training programmes on offer,” he added.
All in all, compliance, competence, and preparedness are key words for the transport of pharmaceutical goods. Finnair Cargo received IATA’s CEIV Pharma certificate as first airline in the world. “The purpose of the IATA CEIV Pharma certification is to create a uniform way of handling pharmaceuticals in air cargo. Therefore, we encourage all stakeholders of air cargo industry to participate in the program, including forwarders, handling agents and fellow airlines. We do not see the IATA CEIV only as a pharma certificate; we see it as a quality certificate. Since starting the certification process, we can see that the overall quality of our Helsinki hub has improved due to increased process discipline in the organization also on general level,” said Jan Skutnabb , Finnair Cargo’s sales director for South East Asia, India, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and New Zealand.
Finnair Cargo's Nordic Pharma Chain offers a reliable solution for the transportation of time and temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals. In addition to the service features provided for pharmaceuticals requiring temperature control, the airline also offer Pharma Light service that ensure storage in dedicated pharma area and high loading priority, without the temperature control related features.
The successful delivery of a parcel or pallet for a pharmaceutical customer is only possible when you are fully in control of all the factors that could impact quality, compliance and product security. And for all of it to fall in place, airports, handlers, airlines and every stakeholder in the air cargo industry have invested heavily in state-of-the-art equipment, improved and adjusted operational process embedded in QMS, qualified resources, continuous improvement programs etc.
All cargo airline Cargolux, for instance, is considerably investing in modern and energy-efficient aircraft. The airline’s 747-400F and 747-8Fs are the ideal equipment to guarantee an unbroken cool chain with improved air-conditioning capabilit), whereas LuxairCARGO, its handling partner at its Luxembourg hub, is investing in new handling facilities dedicated to specific commodities, such as their dedicated pharma and healthcare center. The same is happening at other key Cargolux locations such as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.
“In the future, the healthcare industry will expect that only fully pharma compliant transport service providers (or logistics service providers) will be qualified and form the basis of global cool chain activities. What our clients are mainly asking for is a high service level and ‘deliver as promised’ guarantees. Making the air cargo transport more efficient and attractive is the most urgent challenge facing our industry today,” said a spokesperson from Cargolux.
IAG Cargo has one of the world’s most advanced products for the transport of pharmaceuticals: Constant Climate. Through Constant Climate, customers benefit from the delivery of pharmaceutical shipments in a pure, potent and stable condition for safe administration to patients.
“We recently received third-party recognition for the quality of Constant Climate when we became the first carrier in the world to be awarded a Good Distribution Practice certification by a national government health agency: the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. This achievement is widely recognised as meeting the diamond standard for pharmaceutical transport. In addition we were granted Wholesale Distribution Authorisation for medicines intended for both human and veterinary use. The award was granted in recognition of pharmaceutical supply chain excellence at our Heathrow hub,” added IAG Cargo’s Dorling.
A key innovation for American Airlines Cargo is its new Philadelphia facility which opened earlier this year. It is a dedicated pharmaceutical and healthcare handing facility which is the first of its kind for an air carrier in the NE region of the United States.
“We continue to invest in our ExpediteTC° program as traffic in the last several years has grown significantly. Coupled with positive industry feedback on our infrastructure, equipment, and process enhancements, we see continuing demand for this key vertical. This sector will continue to become more and more important, particularly with the increased demand for advances in the temperature-controlled supply chain. This is largely due to both increasing product complexity and more stringent regulatory requirements for the supply chain,” said Tom Grubb, manager of cold chain strategy for American Airlines Cargo.
Turkish Cargo has also made several investments to improve its pharmaceuticals service. “We focus on the biggest pharmaceuticals markets in Europe and South Asia to increase our market share. Turkish Cargo’s strategy in 2015 is to increase pharmaceuticals share in our all shipments. Owing to our new investments and projects that support this strategy, we expect more than 50 percent increase at the end of the 2015 in pharmaceutical transportation,” anticipates Halit Anlatan, vice president - cargo marketing and sales, Turkish Cargo.
Turkish Cargo has gone a step further by redefining standard operating processes for pharmaceuticals. While all its business plans and processes comply with IATA’s current regulations, the airline has recently inaugurated a new cargo storage area and 39 separate special cargo rooms. It has also built local pharma handling expertise and a pharma mindset training the employees on pharmaceutical handling.
Qatar Airways Cargo announced a series of enhancements to its QR Pharma service earlier this year. The Middle East carrier will be further supporting pharmaceutical customers with the addition of Va-Q-tec container technology; a new QR Pharma advanced passive transportation method that complements Qatar Airways Cargo’s existing Envirotainer and CSafe active containers to offer customers a flexible airfreight solution.
“By investing in sophisticated technology and a team of highly qualified staff, Qatar Airways Cargo can now offer healthcare companies and their logistic partners a state-of-the-art service for shipping temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals all over the world, while maintaining the integrity and quality of their products throughout the supply chain,” said Ulrich Ogiermann, chief cargo officer, Qatar Airways Cargo in a press statement.
Brussels Airport’s cargo arm BRU Cargo has a clear strategy when it comes to integrating the cool chain through its airport. “By standardising and aligning the procedures to the IATA CEIV pharma standard, we can guarantee a robust and reliable handling with a very low risk profile for temperature deviations. By working together with our cargo community we manage to come up with innovations, resulting in a continous step by step improvement of the overall quality. The airport’s cargo management team plays an active role in this process,” said Steven Polmans, head of cargo at Brussels Airport Company.
Steven explains that after infrastructure, the elements that can make a big difference in the service offering is training of the staff handling the pharma shipments, clear procedures and good risk based quality management (improvement) systems. “With our cargo community, we are developing a low cost and guaranteed controlled temperature solution with our cool-chain dolly. This results in a complete elimination of the most extreme temperatures when the pharma shipments are transported to the aircraft,” he added.
Pharmaceutical companies are more and more looking at outsourcing their logistics operations. They are under great pressure to deliver value to the shareholder, and outsourcing their logistics is one of the areas that can help them in achieving this goal.
Every market has different conditions; but, irrespective of the location, it is compliance, quality and product security that are universally the three major focuses in supply chain management for pharmaceutical companies. Leading logistics player CEVA has a rapidly-growing global involvement in this sector, with dedicated sector management and the knowledge and resources in house to satisfy customers’ requirements.
“We constantly strive to better understand the specialised requirements of this sector, working closely with customers on a local basis to maintain the necessary quality standards and ensure compliant delivery. GDP provides the model for our services, and ensures we support the customer with standardized, quality driven solutions,” said Bart Beeks, EVP-Benelux, CEVA Logistics.
Yusen Logistics’ recently opened GDP pharma facility at Schiphol is at the very heart of Yusen’s global pharma distribution capability. The operation adds to Schiphol’s collective pharma capability and Yusen is benefitting from the strong advantages of Schiphol as the ideal location for this hub.
This new operation has been developed in close consultation with Yusen Logistics’ pharma customers, who are increasingly looking for new ways to optimize flows within the constraints of GDP. The operation links Yusen Logistics’ Antwerp import/export consolidation centre and European central warehouse (EDC) with its Schiphol Air operations, to form a true multi-modal hub. This is managed from a single Control Tower, manned by a UK based international team linked to Yusen Logistics’ offices around the world. The service is dedicated solely to the stringent requirements of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, with over 50,000 delivery points in Europe alone. Yusen is currently making 20,000 deliveries per week across 36 countries.
Meanwhile, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is working on other innovations to enhance efficiency and -improve the customer experience. “Currently, we are conducting trials of the new ‘Milk Run’ project, in which we aim to speed the availability of import cargo (and ultimately shorten lead times for exports) by rationalising and centralising trucking between handlers and freight agents. We are already seeing reductions in vehicle movements and congestion, and more efficient use of vehicle capacity. This is an interesting exercise in multi-party collaboration driven by the Schiphol Cargo community, and illustrates how other airport communities could take on a similar facilitation role to the benefit of their airports and the industry as a whole,” said Jonas van Stekelenburg, Director Cargo, Schiphol Cargo.