What are the differences between pharmaceutical supply chain monitoring and tracking?
Company’s that ship orders to their end customers always face risks. These risks are greatly increased when they contain pharmaceutical products as they are more prone to tampering, theft and damage during the supply chain shipments that end up causing problems when finally reaching the end customer. The control and the way each order is handled through the delivery process is lost once each shipment is transferred to the third party delivery service
To minimize these risks, different approaches have been tried, however simply just tracking these shipments have proven to not be enough when it came to pharmaceutical products. Thus determining that a more specialized tracking and tracing system needed to be implemented and used for pharmaceutical shipments.
Implementing and utilizing a different specific tracking system
When examining the crucial differences between normal product shipments and tracking specifically pharmaceutical supply chain monitoring, there are major differences and complexities.
Examples would include the ever changing technology regarding the pharmaceutical environment and product developments in order to keep up to date on the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Product safety would be key to reducing any associated risks with pharmaceutical shipments.
Previously, the basic shipment tracking systems always depended on manual communications within the third party freight forwarders, including the coordinators, the drivers etc. The newer technologies did bring advantages such as RFID tagging, GPRS tracking and also on board sensors.
These new technologies included the following benefits, however, they still lacked the specific details about pharmaceutical shipments to end customers.
Basic Shipment Tracking Problems
In order to track pharmaceutical shipments means to always be able to check online, instantaneously where these products are in route to the end customer, rather than an inaccurate ETA, which means the basic shipment tracking essentially only provides information with regards to:
Location — Shipments reached and the ETA. This information will not include reasons for stoppage, reasons for delay, causes and duration of route deviations, etc. Which is just not detailed enough in order to make quick decisions.
Condition — Tracking device information can include the condition of the shipments after they have arrived. However, the condition data is only at a shipment-level and not at package-level. It basically lacks the level of details that are required for pharmaceutical products.
Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Monitoring vs Basic Shipment Tracking
There are a lot more specific details involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain than when monitoring basic shipments. Not to take anything away from the importance of basic shipments as all companies strive to keep their end customers happy with prompt, correct and hassle free deliveries of their products.
However, for example; The pharmaceutical tracking system will need to provide much more than just knowing the location and condition of the products in the warehouse and also that are in transit. And also include instantaneous real-time data that includes the information needed to be proactive instead of reactive to reduce the risks of theft, expirations, damage etc.
Implementing and then utilizing a specialized pharmaceutical complete supply chain monitoring system will allow the data required to monitor every single condition of these shipments and tracking to the end customer.
When there are limited or connectivity problems with the live data transfers, this system needs to be capable of storing the information, then transmitting it up to a cloud server after the connectivity has been reestablished, which provides a verifiable audit trail regardless of the shipment location.
The following points are what a pharmaceutical supply chain monitoring system should include
Shipment Level visibility across all modes of transport
- Instantaneous knowledge about stolen products: Knowing where each package is helps improve chances in the recovery of these stolen items thus aiding in blacklisting them.
- Shipment-segregation: Most airlines and shipping companies load parcels on different flights to reduce delays. Having a downstream, or package level visibility system in real time helps keep track of each shipment, even if they are separated from the beginning of the transit process.
- Multiple transportation modes: All pharmaceutical companies use multiple modes of transportation based on their types of products. For example; generic drugs, patent drugs, clinical trials etc. Tracking each of these types of shipments from the first leg to the end customer is only possible if it is known where exactly each of these packages are located in real time.
- International Shipments: When pharmaceutical goods are shipped internationally, this process becomes much more complicated. Which includes managing condition-sensitive goods with varied infrastructure, handling customs regulations in different countries, maintaining conditions throughout the shipment route including high-touch handling, risk of theft and counterfeit.
Real-time Tracking Location and Conditions
- Faster decision-making: An up to the minute real time live tracking system allows quick decisions to be made and the course of action to be taken, rather than reacting to a late, damaged arrival, or a stolen shipment.
- Damage control: A real time tracking system enables the ability to quickly decide to send another batch of an essential product in time, if this shipment has gone through irreparable damage due to unavoidable conditions that took place during transit.
Summary & Conclusion
The above assessments hopefully cover how a typical pharmaceutical supply chain monitoring system needs to be more advanced than just tracking normal shipments, but also would improve the companies ROI, and contribute to the well being of the end-consumer.
Unlike a regular supply chain system, where a late or missing shipment might lead to a spoiled batch of goods, in a pharmaceutical supply chain, theft, damage, and counterfeit drugs can have dire consequences on end customers and impact a company’s reputation for the long term.
To avoid such situations, it is essential to strike a tradeoff between data sharing and data security. For this, the specialized pharmaceutical backend system should be able to handle data securely. This system needs to provide the tools and real time data that will enable faster decision-making, better risk mitigation, and improved operational efficiency.
This system should provide the ability to enable integrated demand forecasting and production planning for better responsiveness to market/demand fluctuations as well.
What helps even more is having dedicated teams manning this monitoring system, and to be able to automate to a level where dependence on human intervention is minimal.