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

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 final part 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 5: What are your needs beyond distribution?

Distribution services can get your product moving through the supply chain effectively and efficiently. But what happens when you simply need more from your logistics partnerships?

Post-launch outcomes data can reveal new product indications and new commercial possibilities. Drug pricing fluctuations can create affordability challenges. You may want to access new international markets, bringing a need for multiple facilities across the globe to build in business continuity, as well as new secondary packaging considerations. Regulatory changes, such as upcoming serialization requirements, need to be complied with. Changing innovation landscapes, with the rise of cell and gene therapies (CGTs), mean that cryogenic storage becomes increasingly important. Then there are administration considerations and marketing messages to think about. 

When you think about the future of your business, think about new ways to glean value from your transport and storage relationship. Think beyond your day-to-day distribution needs. As products move through their life cycles, your business needs will naturally change. Is your supply chain partner equipped to shift with you?


“Position yourself for the best possible product performance by partnering with a 3PL that stays abreast of these changes and can anticipate the impact on your distribution strategy.”

Here are a few final considerations from a strategic perspective:
More than logistics
Think end-to-end. Once your product is on the market, you are collecting real-world data on everything from its efficacy to demographics around the patient population it is serving. But even before that, you are engaged in strategic commercialization initiatives such as overcoming access barriers. Imagine the possibilities inherent in having a provider that can connect you with expertise in these areas. When you need commercialization support, a patient support program or access to payer data, can your partner provide integrated service offerings or connections to seamless partnerships across the product life cycle?
More than ordering
What happens to your product once it gets to the customer? Do providers or specialty pharmacies need education on how to administer the product? Does it need to be kitted with a syringe or other administration device? Are there site-of-care storage specifications that are critical to patient safety? Consider whether your logistics specialist has the expertise, experience, or forward-thinking ability to advise on best practices for ensuring your product is used properly once it is ordered. An experienced third party logistics (3PL) provider's capabilities should include quality assurance measures for product handling even after your product leaves its hands.
More than just a vendor
Is your partner able to collaborate with you throughout your journey, from development to commercialization and beyond? The right partner will be able to support you from initial engagement, understanding the product, customer profile, and other requirements in order to support you in achieving a successful launch. 

A consultative provider can advise on the best distribution channels and strategy. Particularly when indications expand once a product enters the market, make sure you are connected to a partner who can help you evaluate how to get your product into the hands of new patients in new disease state populations.

Even if your product does not change, changes in global healthcare delivery are ongoing. Position yourself for the best possible product performance by partnering with a 3PL that stays abreast of these changes and can anticipate the impact on your distribution strategy.
More than a commercialization partner
Is the company capable of engaging with you and sharing knowledge to support your understanding of your supply chain and where it can improve post-launch? Do they have a proactive mindset to support you in continuous improvement? 

A strong partner should be able to collaborate with you to create a long-term post-commercialization strategy, harnessing the latest digital and automation tools to get your product to its destination faster. With the right support, you can ensure that the product scope is correct and continues to evolve along with the product, offering frequent touch points and business reviews to keep you updated. 
The right partner is key

Whether you are evaluating an existing provider or seeking out a new one, you will always want one who is more than capable of delivery. When you think 3PL, think partnership. And think of the five questions we have covered in this series:

  1. What does “the right experience” look like?
  2. What are your business goals?
  3. What is your product profile?
  4. What are your distribution success metrics (and what are theirs)?
  5. What are your needs beyond distribution?

With these five questions in mind, you will always know if your partner can grow — or if you have outgrown it.