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Can your 3PL partner grow with you - Part two

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 the second of our blog series exploring the five questions manufacturers should ask to uncover whether your third party logistics (3PL) provider is the right choice for your business, we ask….

Question 2: What are your business goals?

When logistics companies line up to win your business, your goals quickly become their goals. Solutions are offered up to meet any needs you mention — sometimes even when the solution does not currently exist.

Wise manufacturers dig deeper. They go beyond the guidance offered by their advisors and consultants because they know that their specialty partner will ultimately serve as an extension of their business. And as that extension, the company must be able to execute immediately, scale with the manufacturer’s business and grow to accommodate long-term goals.

Selecting a partner that has this flexibility allows you to avoid the time and expense of switching 3PL companies as your product line, business model or distribution strategy evolves. It allows you to minimize your long-term supply chain risk and focus instead on building your business, expanding the reach of your current products, or diversifying your product line.

Based on our experience working with dozens of manufacturers over the course of more than 15 years in the specialty logistics space, ICS recommends that you examine any partner through the lens of your short-term and long-term business goals. Doing so can ensure a right fit from the start — and create a clear path for enduring success.

“Enduring success stems from a long-term, scalable partnership with a 3PL provider whose services drive you toward your strategic distribution goals.”

So, what might that look like?


  • Product launch and short-term impact: Now more than ever, pharmaceutical manufacturers need to seek a partner that provides more than just pick/pack expertise. Partners should be able to help you understand your options, build the ideal distribution strategy, as well as tailor their services to meet your goals, providing the right technology and infrastructure.

    The best partners collaborate closely with you to develop efficient, high-quality supply chain strategies. They can also provide a range of solutions to meet the unique needs of your project — from finished goods warehousing and order management to real-time customer inventory monitoring and tracking, as well as reporting capabilities to drive business decisions. You should consider whether the partner is committed to creating a culture of learning and growing to allow both parties to adapt the supply solution as needed to optimize effectiveness.

    You have one chance to launch your product. If you want the launch to be successful and for your product to fulfill its potential, you and your partner need to start the commercialization journey two years before the target launch date. This will give you ample time to achieve key milestones and use specific achievements as a record for any FDA filing.
  • Product growth, company growth, and mid-term support: The right provider can help you build your product brand in the market post-launch - with this in mind, you need to team up with a partner that can grow with you over the long term. When selecting a partner, you need to ask yourself a number of questions:

    How will it adapt as your company grows? 
    Will they provide more support — more order volume processed, or different types of customers served (specialty distributors, specialty pharmacies, health systems, specialty providers)? 

    For example, companies that could grow from a single, cold-chain product to a mix of ambient, cold chain, and deep-frozen products would be well served to select a provider that can handle products across the range of storage and transport conditions. Otherwise, they face situations where some of their products are processed through one 3PL and other products through another. That presents an unnecessary challenge on many fronts — from data aggregation to supply chain strategy to sales and product management. 

    When choosing a long-term logistics relationship, you should consider whether they can become a true extension of your team. They should offer participation in monthly and quarterly business performance reviews as a means for you both to collaborate and identify solutions to optimize the supply chain. Open communication and knowledge-sharing are key to a solid partnership. 
  • Long-term vision: It is a globalized healthcare market — what are your aspirations beyond the U.S.? If you do not have a clear answer or cannot envision a path that takes your company to foreign markets (other than out-licensing your product to a larger manufacturer), perhaps your 3PL can help. Increasingly, supply chain partners are helping clients broaden their horizons. Whether it is expansion into nearby markets, such as Canada, or into emerging markets, like Brazil, even small and mid-size manufacturers are realizing that they can reach millions of potential patients outside the U.S. if they have the right supply chain and commercialization partners in place.

Enduring success stems from a long-term, scalable partnership with a company whose services drive you toward your strategic distribution goals. The first steps for any manufacturer are identifying what those goals are — and then making sure they synchronize with the partner’s expertise and core competencies. In part three of our five-part series, we will explore in greater detail how product profile impacts 3PL selection.

Read part three now