Pharma: Delivering in good health
Malcolm Townsend is a Cold Chain Logistician working for Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), a humanitarian-aid non-governmental organisation working in most underdeveloped countries facing endemic diseases. One of the biggest challenges for Townsend is to reach lifesaving medicines and vaccines to people in need. Vaccines are among the most important medical tools for protecting the health of children. Most vaccines must be kept at 2-8°C (35-46°F), or they will spoil. “Storing, transporting and administering them in conditions where Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) works are some of our biggest logistical challenges,” said Townsend. According to Townsend, it starts at a warehouse, like the one MSF operates in Brussels. “We load shipments to the field onto trucks with ice-lined fridges for extra protection against power failures. They’re transferred to airplanes - not cargo ships. Air travel is faster than delivery by sea, reducing the risk of a break in the cold chain,” he confirmed. Air cargo is one of the main areas of a logistics network that make it almost impossible to be without, if you are transporting pharmaceuticals worldwide. Air cargo is critical to controlling the logistics process from source to market. With the introduction of temperature controlled ULDs and other ambient storage technologies it has made the pharmaceutical logistics process more streamlined and more cost efficient than ever before. Recently OnAsset Intelligence, the machine-to-machine (M2M) airborne asset tracking solutions, and Envirotainer, the secure cold chain logistics solutions provider within the life science industries, announced last month a multimillion dollar contract to equip Envirotainer’s leading air cargo containers, RKN e1 and RAP e2, with OnAsset’s SENTRY FlightSafe real-time data collection and GPS tracking technology. The two firms had announced late last year of this collaborative partnership. Since then Envirotainer and OnAsset have been working with prominent pharmaceutical customers and have been testing the new technology with real shipments across the globe. “We consider the strategic partnership with OnAsset Intelligence as very important based on a number of key indicators, such as being the first of many to come to support short, medium and long term market. We are not only leading innovation within pharmaceutical supply chain but also the unprecedented ability to internally and externally use real time data in both product development, which provides critical information to our customers and partners,” said Gabriel Andersson, COO, Envirotainer. At the pharma shippers forum organized by Amsterdam Airport Schiphol during the Air Cargo India event recently in Mumbai, shippers raised their concerns about the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain and urged that every player in the entire supply chain network must stop cutting costs and take more responsibility. The shippers were urged to take more control of the supply chain and spend more to help their suppliers maintain the strict requirements for the transport of these products. “The shipper knows the product best. The key here is that we partner with the customer to understand their needs. We watch and develop the process with them,” said Deepak Kotak, head of life science and healthcare for DHL Global Forwarding. Supporting the argument was Venugopal Somani, deputy joint drugs controller for India. Shippers can play a role by working hand in hand with drug controllers. It is the manufacturers’ responsibility to maintain the products in the right condition,” said Somani. However, Ryan Viegas, VP, supply chain and procurement for Watson Pharma said that they share almost all the information they have on products, and we take full responsibility for our products. Marcel Fujike, Kuehne + Nagel’s senior vice president for global air logistics products and services pointed out that there was a lack of skills, training and standards throughout cool-chain logistics. The other problems, according to Fujike, include lack of cooperation and communication throughout the logistics chain, including shippers, who were “very shy in sharing information too”. Vulnerable spots in the air transport chain included handling, loading, the tarmac phase, “which is considered the weakest link in the chain”, and customs clearance. Exposure to extreme temperatures ruined more air cargo pharma shipments in 2013 than ever before. And this reason, according to experts, is driving this traffic to ocean carriers. While one reason for such exposures are due to unprecedented global temperature extremes and the other reason being inadequate temperature control solutions. “Solar radiation spikes during air handling operations have become one of the weakest links in the pharmaceutical cool-chain, a problem that is causing some manufacturers to switch from fast and efficient air carriage to the considerably slower sea freight,” said Tony Wright, a cool-chain expert at the consultancy firm Excelsius. One solution is the adequate physical defence against sudden exposure to the weather. Fujike said serious pharma logistics players only dealt with partners they had carefully audited and assessed, calling on airlines, handlers and airports to invest in infrastructure and equipment such as warehousing, temperature-controlled vehicles to cover the tarmac phase, and thermal blankets. The healthcare industry needs to rely on logistics solutions that ensure the quality and integrity of its products all across the supply chain. At Liege Airport, dedicated facilities enable seamless and secure transfers in less than four minutes from aircraft to temperature controlled warehouses (1575m2 centralised centre). Talking about the facility enhancement for pharma sector at Liege Airport, Bert Selis, cargo and logistics manager for Liege Airport said: “As a full cargo airport it is our job to anticipate on trends in the market. That has brought us to become Europe’s eighth biggest cargo airport. Yearly more than 120,000 tonnes of perishable products such as pharmaceuticals pass through Liege Airport,” he added. According to him, the core competencies of Liege are accurate and fast handling of sensible products. “That is precisely what the shippers really need, and they are getting more and more vocal about it.” The advantage that Liege Airport has is its location. It is in the middle of Europe’s main consumer market and in the middle of many pharmaceutical companies. “To stay the airport of choice for many pharma shippers it is important to be in constant dialogue with the industry. Liege Airport is part of HLC (Healthcare Logistics Community), an organisation consisting of top pharmaceutical companies that meet regularly to discuss current and future transport topics and logistics set-up,” said Selis. Based at Luxembourg’s Findel Airport, Luxair Cargo is the leading air freight handling agent at Luxembourg airport, making it the eighth largest air freight platform in Europe. In 2013 close to 21,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical products were processed at its Pharma and Healthcare Hub. With GDP (Good Distribution Practices) certification, Luxair Cargo is expected to handle close to 30,000 tonnes in the current fiscal. The GDP certification incorporates all the official recommendations and guidelines concerning the transportation and distribution of pharmaceutical products for human use and represents a real added value for all the stakeholders in the logistics chain and their customers. In an increasingly regulated sector, the GDP quality label guarantees the final recipient the integrity of the pharmaceutical products will be maintained during their transportation and storage at airports. According to a statement from Luxair Cargo, it is the first European freight ground-handling agent to be awarded GDP status by Bureau Veritas Certification, Germany. “We are a one-stop shop. By managing the entire process from arrival until departure of the shipments, we can better monitor the quality than other handlers or other airports, which is as important as the GDP certification,” said Laurent Jossart, executive vice president, Luxair Cargo. CAL Cargo with close to four decades of experience in handling temperature controlled freight such as pharma has 35 percent of their entire cargo temperature controlled. “Our intention is to be leaders in pharma transportation and we invest a tremendous amount of time and resources in learning new techniques, conducting detailed risk assessment, continuously improving and reducing the risk by recognizing the critical points throughout the logistic chain,” said Eyal Zagagi, CEO, CAL Cargo. According to Zagagi, CAL Cargo’s fleet is parked right on the "waterline", just in front of thier warehouse (10-30meters). “It means exposure of temperature sensitive shipments to the tarmac is minimal. Tarmac is known as one of the most critical points throughout the cold chain and we work in very close cooperation with our GHA's in order to minimise the risks at this segment,” Zagagi elaborated. Assessing the market for short term and long term perspective, Zagagi said: “Biological medicines and pharma companies are developing drugs that are more sensitive and need quick transport. For example, certain medicines such as biological drugs are more sensitive not only to time and temperature but also to shock and vibration and must be shipped using the latest transport technologies.” Selis squarely places the success and sustainability in the short and long term of pharmaceuticals travelling by air in the hands of the air cargo industry itself. “In the coming years a big focus for the pharmaceutical industry is and will be the optimisation of logistics flows and of supply chains, and we believe air cargo will have to step up its game to maintain its position,” he cautioned. The global market size of the pharmaceutical industry is estimated to be worth $962 billion and India is a key player in it. For the 2013-14 fiscal India’s pharma exports was valued at $14.84 billion. India is the world’s third-largest supplier of pharmaceuticals by volume, with nearly 10,000 life science manufacturing plants. One in three of the world’s children receive vaccines made in India. Healthcare industry information provider IMS projects that by 2017, Brazil, Russia and India will collectively hold eight percent of the global pharma market and against a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the global pharmaceutical market of 3-6 percent in the period 2013-17, these markets will see a CAGR of 10–13 percent. By 2017, 50 percent of drugs by volume are forecast to be in new emerging pharma markets, while the US and Europe will each account for only 13 percent. Pharma has always been a high value goods business. Most of the exports were by air. As pharmaceutical margins have decreased and low cost generic volume has increased, some companies have shifted their mode of exports to sea. This shipping alternative to traditional air freight can save companies millions of dollars if planned and executed well. However, there is always the just in need and high value healthcare products that need airfreight to transport them from manufacturing plants to consumers. To that extent airfreight will always be the first choice for the pharmaceutical shipper.