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Can your 3PL partner grow with you? - Part one

By ICS Connect

With new pharmaceutical logistics providers emerging every day, it can be difficult to determine which will serve you and your product’s needs best.

Making the wrong choice of partner can result in a sub-standard supply chain solution that can lead to process shortcomings that can jeopardize product safety, your customer relationships and brand reputation.

In this blog series, we will explore the five questions manufacturers should ask to uncover whether your provider is the right choice for your business, now and in the future.
Question 1: What does “the right experience” look like in 2023?

Much has changed in the pharma logistics industry over the last decade. Technology, healthcare, global transformation, and evolution in our understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion have all had their impact, changing what is required from a transport partner and pushing the envelope of what is possible from a pharmaceutical supply chain.

One thing has not changed, though. There is no substitute for expertise and experience in pharmaceutical distribution. Shortcomings in any area can result in substantially negative consequences for your business: cold chain products going outside the temperature range, delays in getting vital medications to customers, improper billing and account reconciliation, and inefficient inventory management.

A logistics partner with the right experience will:
  • Take a consultative approach to meeting your needs that will progress and evolve as your product moves from its clinical journey to commercial.
  • Level up its business development talents to ensure client success with in-depth connection points on third party logistics (3PL) savings, growth plans, and program support factors.
  • Adapt its business model to meet evolving pharmaceutical industry needs — for example, expanding cryogenic and large-volume specialty cold storage to provide for the new generation of cell and gene therapies (CGTs).

“With the right partner, a drug developer can maximize existing customer profitability through enhanced supply chain efficiency, as well as investments made in intellectual and physical assets.”


With the right partner, a drug developer can maximize existing customer profitability through enhanced supply chain efficiency, as well as investments made in intellectual and physical assets.

Here are several elements to consider when assessing whether your partner has the experience to match your expectations:

The right infrastructure

Is the logistics partner equipped to address a full range of product needs? Those needs might encompass different temperature control requirements, controlled substance storage, systems, and processes to manage interactions with all types of healthcare provider customers — from pharmacies to wholesalers to physician offices. Does it have access to the latest technologies to support you in further enhancing supply chain efficiency? For example, machine learning can offer considerable advantages in terms of learning from existing supply chain models to refine them and make them more effective and resilient in the future. 

The right knowledge
New regulations such as the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA) will impact how your products are received, stored, tracked, and shipped. Is your partner actively informing you of the steps it is taking to ensure timely compliance with new regulations? Is the company offering guidance on the preparations you need to make prior to deadlines?
The right service model
Does the team that launches your supply chain program stay on to serve your account, or are you continually passed from person to person and team to team? Does the 3PL provider serve as an extension of your business to give you insight into billing, product handling at the delivery point and other customer considerations? Having a service model that aligns with how you work allows you to gain a greater line of sight into your entire supply chain, while also giving you a strategic and operational partner that will be responsive and accountable.
The right value
Does your provider go beyond the basics to bring solutions that save you time and expense? Can the company show ongoing investment in resources or improvement in quality that help manufacturer clients reach their customers more effectively? Whether it is offering services like relabeling and re-kitting or implementing continuous improvement programs like ISO-certification, a partner with the right experience brings premium value to the relationship — even if there is not an associated premium cost.
Global reach
Does your partner offer well-established and reliable infrastructure to support global transport, even for treatments with cryogenic or other specialty transit needs? Does it have experts with local regulatory and logistical knowledge in key international markets? These attributes are vital to ensuring that your product can get from your home market to patients in another country with minimal delay. 
Associate engagement and corporate partnerships 

Does your partner have effective working relationships with dependable corporate partners? Can it collaborate with external companies efficiently to develop customized transport solutions to meet the unique needs of individual treatments? 

Growing your business starts with a logistics partnership that addresses all the elements above — with a base of experience that combines quantity and quality to drive your success. In part two of our five-part series, we will examine how your short-term and long-term business goals can influence decisions about 3PL selection.

Read part two now