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Experts conjure up solutions to build a stronger modern pharma supply chain

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COVID-19 brought the pharmaceutical supply chain in the limelight, and increased the expectations around supply chain efficiency multifold, which means that the industry must eliminate typical supply chain roadblocks to the maximum extent. The pharma supply chain today looks much different than its conventional perception – in fact, it is now a modern value chain network which is digitally connected, with end-to-end access and visibility.

Putting under the spotlight, this very transformed supply chain with greater agility and resiliency, Logistics Insider hosted a LinkedIn Live themed ‘Navigating Complexities of The Modern pharma Supply Chains.’

Powered by Jeena & Co., the session witnessed insightful conversations between the participating experts, revolving around –

  1. Challenges in today’s pharma supply chain & ways to evade them
  2. Manifesting cargo-friendly airports for efficient handling of pharma shipments
  3. How digitization & emerging technologies are reshaping pharma logistics
  4. Trends around temperature management during transit & storage, and
  5. The power of standardization & compliance.

Commencing the session with a vote of thanks to our host and esteemed panellists, the Moderator Mr. Prakash Singh, Vice President – Pharma & Life Sciences Logistics, Jeena & Co. gave a brief background and said, “Pharma supply chain as a whole has never gained the importance it deserved in the global supply chain before COVID. When the world was hit by the pandemic, and restrictions along with lockdowns were imposed making it near impossible to move the essential commodities like medicines, vaccines, medical devices etc. all the stakeholders, be it the government, airport authorities, freight forwarders, manufacturers and regulatory bodies, came together to create an infra that ensures the continuous movement of essentials across the globe, making the medicines, vaccines and medical devices available for the patients on time. I am proud to say that these consolidated efforts have made it possible for the industry to sail through the difficult times and highlight that these times made us all realise the importance of having a robust pharma supply chain.”

Sharing a few pain points, Mr. Ugrasen Singh, Associate Director – Lead Import/Export & Logistics procurement, Cipla said “In a supply chain the physical and information flow are the two most important pillars. When we look at info flow, due to the tech availability, the modern supply chain is able to make this flow of information quick and keep the industry up-to-date, agile and efficient. But for us what is a pain point is the physical flow. While the entire globe and all the stakeholders of the global supply chain is looking at India and its efforts towards the supply chain, the reality at ground is not good.  The way consignments are handled at the airports and various transit hubs is bad. A Pharma shipment requires to be handled by following the proper compliances, but what we notice is that the handling of a pharma shipment is no different when compared to other consignments. While this is painful for the pharma industry, I have hopes that this will improve as people are ready to collaborate and understand pharma logistics.”

Highlighting that “the pandemic has affected the health and the decision making of people”. Mr. Bhupendra Kumar, Head of Logistics, IOL Chemicals & Pharma giving a manufacturers point of view on the current situations said, “The pandemic has had an impact on the demand & the price and have caused disruptions in supply chain.” He goes on to explain that as people begun to invest more in health care, the demand of various products intermediates, raw materials and KSMs increased during the pandemic. “However, the high disruption in supply chains whether caused by the necessary lockdown and regulation taken by the government, or the at ground issues like increased freight costs, increased costs of API, or even the sitting costs have ultimately affected the manufacturing companies which has resulted in lower availability and increase in the cost of the material required in production of finished goods.”

Mr. Ramesh Mamidala, Chief Cargo Officer, Adani Airports Holdings Ltd., opened up on the issues faced by pharma industry at airports and spoke about achieving the ideal infra, operations, processes and technology for pharma supply chain. He says, “We are not there yet! We definitely have a long way to go.” Reasoning his statement he added, “It is because the airport infra development takes a very long time, as one needs to invest a lot of money. And, it’s a very long time consuming process, getting it designed, approved and getting it invested. However, being associated with the air cargo industry for more than 10 years, I would like to point out that the industry has with its constant efforts and learnings from different incidents and fellow cargo hubs has been able to make some good developments. 4-5 major hubs that are dominant in Pharma exports has dedicated pharma hubs with a capacity to handle extreme temperature zones. Some have also introduced the concept of cool dollies, and made efforts to receive and share active information. While all these innovations have not been implemented to all the airports, what the air cargo or the airline faternity has done is to realise the importance of pharma exports, and are looking to expand its capability, invest in training of staff, infra, procure certifications, and open the gates to recive audits from the pharma industry to improve operations.”  

Speaking on how times have changed and now pharma products, prescriptions and reports are just a click away, Mr. Imtiaz Naik, Deputy General Manager- Logistics, Dr. Lal Pathlabs, said “The modern pharma supply chain needs to ensure that while they become more patient centric we do not compromise on quality. The medicines that is being delivered to the patient’s door steps is coming in the required temperature, the storage in dark stores are under proper temperature with proper visibility to the patient, the sample flow from resident to the processing unit is with proper supply chain and hygiene. The modern supply chain is patient centric and in coming years its going to be more demanding so we as logistics experts have to get up and prepare ourselves for more demanding and patient centric supply chains.”

The session was indeed a productive and constructive one, which witnessed our experts not only highlight the challenges and difficulties but also come up with solutions that could help us not only build a stronger modern pharma supply chain but also maintain it for the unforeseen future.

To view this brainstorming session, click here.

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