August 07, 2020

During the formidable challenges of winning the war of the COVID-19 pandemic, Visibility in the transportation network promises to be the greatest antidote. In the absence of an “antifragile” global supply chain, the ability to respond to uncertainty would have been significantly enhanced by visibility of delivery status of products, supplier capability, carrier capacity and availability, inventory and out of stock specifics, country-specific regulatory requirements, and demand of patient-life-saving products and services.

We have always recognized that visibility in the end-to-end links of the transportation network is critically required to ensure Integrity of Product, Integrity of Process, Authenticity of Drug and Compliance with Governmental Regulations. In the logistics industry we have failed to comprehensively assess the impact and cost of delayed delivery and product being out of specification, product damage, magnitude of expired and counterfeit drugs, excess inventory, and out of stock. It has been said that you cannot control what you do not measure. It would make Edward Deming shrug in his grave to know that the root causes of our problems are unknown. One wonders who feels the pain of a sub-optimal logistics network where responsibilities are fragmented, and information is seldom shared! Who has the economic incentive to identify the logistics problems when it is likely to reduce their revenue they collect from their customer? Drug manufacturers attempt to stay under a threshold for damaged goods as a percent of revenue, which promotes complacency and not transformational improvement. A TPL can potentially lower its revenue by identifying and eliminating problems encountered. To exacerbate matters, temperature incursions which adversely impact product quality can go unmeasured and therefore unnoticed. How serious is the logistics problem when there is a deviation from a planned event?

Governmental interventions to enforce ePedigree, Serialization and DSCSA for Life Sciences have been viewed as regulatory hurdles and not necessary business innovations for enhanced profitability and patient care. Logistics is the single largest industry on earth, generating over 9 trillion dollars a year in revenue and moving over 7 million pallets a day. The last major innovation to achieve visibility in the supply chain was when barcodes were assigned to products in the 60s and FedEx decided to use it to monitor status of a parcel in its delivery life cycle. Today we have the promising technologies of IoT, AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain and Data Analytics which can transform the overall supply chain for cost efficiency, lead time reduction, asset utilization improvement, waste reduction, and product quality assurance, overall integrity and real-time decision making. But it appears we are in a conundrum where the technology solution is looking for a business problem to solve. Unfortunately, the treasure troves of research conducted by management consulting companies and research institutions, while benchmarking and analyzing transportation realities and trends, have failed to identify root causes of waste in global logistics expense of $9 Trillion.

In order to address the above, we must have information from the partners in the supply chain concerning Product Quality (package level and Pallet/container level), Timeliness of Scheduled Events, Temperature Control results from end to end, Process Deviation from Standard, Degree of Compliance with Govt. Regulatory Guidelines, Geo-Positioning Data, to name the major data required to be measured at the  nodes of the lifeline.


We request executive from the TPL, Packager, Airline, Port Authority, FDA, Drug Companies, Technology Enablers and Logistics Service Providers to come together to address the challenge holistically and launch an effort to find answers for an efficient, smart and responsible logistics network. Thomas Panzer, the SVP and Head of Supply Chain Management at Bayer AG, remarked at the 4th Annual Conference of BSMA Europe in Brussels, “We have transparency of transport lane deliveries to our direct customers (wholesaler, retailer, in some cases hospitals and pharmacies) up to the point of sale. While the systems can be further integrated and improved, the issue is the downstream channel inventory visibility from the point where the goods arrive at the wholesalers/retailers until they are delivered into hospitals/pharmacies and until point of treatment. The lead time can be up to 2 months (or in some cases even longer) where most pharma companies have no visibility at all.” His visionary goal is to optimize the entire end to end supply chain from supplier over production network through the distribution network down to the point of treatment.

I am encouraged by what Rich Kilmer, CEO of CargoSense, observed, “What’s changed recently is an advance in sensor technology. We now have disposable, real time, cellular sensors. Couple that with artificial intelligence, and we can transform the world of today into the world of tomorrow. This is the essence of the CargoSense platform.”

The ability of Resilinc to expose the risk of supply so that it can be mitigated has compelling value. When OpenText can integrate disparate systems, onboard customers automatically, provide documentation of processes relating to FDA, and an IoT platform, we have the tools for advancement. When Schrocken creates an intelligent, real-time visibility of CMOs, it is power for the course. The of customer service provided by ClearMetal in tracking shipment from the source across oceans, one has a powerful technology. Getting a single, unified view of shipments in real time is the dream of every supply chain executive and Overhaul provides it in a cloud-based environment.

It is gratifying that building blocks are being innovated for a smart, agile and resilient supply chain. While DSCSA compliance is a mandatory regulatory requirement for Life Sciences, technology enablers must build a platform to provide visibility for real time decision making on its foundation. Let BSMA be the waterhole for collaboration to advance the industry!

Submitted by Devendra Mishra, Executive Director, BSMA


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