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

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 third 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 3: What is your product profile?

If your product does not arrive where it should, on time, and within the specified temperature range, you are losing time and money in duplicated distribution efforts and wasted product. And if delays and other issues happen regularly in your supply chain, operational inefficiency could damage your business.

 Considering this, every supply chain partner that serves your product should be tailored to your product’s specific features. After all, a supply network that works smoothly can maximize your opportunity for growth.

You already know how a logistics partner with experience in the distribution of specialty pharmaceutical products can help you drive success, and why it is also important to keep your business goals top-of-mind. But eliminating waste by selecting the right provider for your product also requires looking closely at your product’s needs — from temperature control to ordering processes and regulatory requirements. It is critical to ask the questions up-front that will determine if your logistics partner has the flexibility and scale to accommodate your product — and thereby enable your success.

“It is critical to ask the questions up-front that will determine if your 3PL has the flexibility and scale to accommodate your product — and thereby enable your success.”

So, what are you looking for?

When it comes to matching your product with a partner, keep the following in mind:


A company that understands the nuances of both high-volume and high-value products and what they mean for your customers is vital to meet your needs. An expert who can harness years of industry knowledge and global reach can anticipate where challenges might arise to help you forecast supply and move your business in the right direction. The right partner can also expedite products directly to the customers that need your products most, even in times of short supply.

As the number of products requiring cold-chain transit and storage grows, and the industry shifts towards more cryogenic and specialist exports, a company that can support both fresh and frozen transfer can help support your business as it evolves and adapts to a changing pharma landscape. At these moments, it is about scale and experience — flexing to accommodate both your product’s needs and your market’s demand — with the goal of improved product access at the forefront.


Patient safety should be just as much a priority for your provider as they are for your R&D team. A potential partner needs to have the ability to meet your product’s specific temperature control and other transport needs. Not only does your partner need to be able to store and package your product correctly, but it also needs to be able to offer the highest levels of regulatory compliance support.

In November 2023, for example, regulations will be rolled out enforcing serialization at every stage of the drug journey to optimize track and trace of drugs — a strong partner will already be taking steps to upgrade its systems to ensure continued compliance. In addition, do not overlook your partner’s ability to comply with the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA). Proving supply chain safety and product integrity will continue to grow in importance — especially for specialty medications — in the years ahead.


Knowing exactly how your product is stored, as well as the protocols around how it is accessed can make a significant difference for many manufacturers. Does your partner have the range of infrastructure and expertise to support the storage needs of your sensitive specialty product — even those that require cryogenic storage? Can your 3PL support your disaster recovery plans by storing products in multiple locations? You should consider how your logistics provider is investing to ensure business continuity by upgrading their support with additional redundancies (facilities and back-up power supplies for example).


Finally, as concern about the environmental footprint of the pharma industry moves up the agenda, it is important for you to consider how your partner supports your efforts to minimize your carbon emissions and enhance the sustainability of your supply chain. A strong and reliable partner will work closely with you to identify all carbon emissions in your supply chain, from the packaging to the cold chain shippers and to take steps to reduce them to meet Paris Agreement goals. Collaborating with your partner as early in your development journey as possible will ensure that your product’s supply network will have the smallest possible footprint from the moment it launches.

Read part four now.