Temperature Control And Other Issues Facing Pharmaceutical Supply Chains In 2021

by Des Nnochiri for WBR UK, 31 March 2021

During the first quarter of 2021, WBR Insights surveyed 100 Directors of Supply Chain Management and similar positions from pharmaceutical companies across Europe, to discover what challenges they are facing in 2021 due to the impact of COVID-19, and the innovative solutions they are putting in place. Chief among the issues highlighted by the respondents were a reduction in sales, stock shortages, and a loss of visibility over parts of their supply chain.

As COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues apace, one of the major issues that pharmaceutical logistics managers must contend with is temperature control, and the preservation of thermally sensitive materials in storage and transit. This challenge becomes especially acute as vaccine roll out expands to include poorer and more remote parts of the earth where transportation and access are difficult, and regions may lack the electricity and other infrastructure needed to support cold chain technologies.

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Filling Supply Chain Gaps

The top three most problematic supply chain gaps identified by the respondents were a lack of sufficient collaboration with external entities, an inability to gain comprehensive supply chain visibility, and a minimum level of technology to improve their operations.

As we make the transition from COVID-19 to a new set of norms, pharmaceutical supply chains will need to become increasingly flexible to manage gaps, increase visibility, reduce delays, and increase the level of collaboration between external suppliers and customers.

Managing Supply Chain Disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light various ways in which organisations can innovate their supply chain functions in the near future, to reduce the impact of disruption. The top three areas our respondent organisations are working on to reduce supply chain disruptions this year include diversifying sourcing and logistics fulfilment capacity. As this will inevitably incur new regulatory and compliance risks alongside the maintenance of high quality assurance, global trade and regulatory compliance issues rounded out the set.

Real-Time Temperature Monitoring And Data Management

With cold chain logistics and COVID-19 vaccine preservation high on the priorities list for many organisations right now, there is much focus on Real-time Temperature Monitoring (RTM) -- an established technology suite that has (for the most part) illustrated its value. In the adoption of new technologies such as this, the management of alerts and IT security challenges could be considered as expected. And in fact, managing 24/7 alerts was the biggest challenge our respondent’s faced when implementing or considering an RTM programme.

However, these are challenges worth addressing. According to our respondents, the top three benefits of measuring ROI from real-time temperature monitoring are insurance cost savings, improved quality and safety, and operational cost savings. A high number of respondents cited regulatory compliance as one of their key benefits when measuring ROI on real-time temperature monitoring technology.

As the number of novel modalities (mRNA, CAR-T etc.) demanding highly specialised temperature controlled distribution operations increases, this will present a key challenge and significant risks that may in turn be met and mitigated by advanced monitoring technologies.

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