Executive Q&A: Broadening the Scope of 3PL

By Peter Belden |

ICS’ president talks about the company’s mission and his personal vision for the industry.

Specialty 3PL providers can do more to differentiate their services in an increasingly crowded market. At the same time, their solutions can align more closely with manufacturer needs. We talk with Pete Belden, President of ICS, on how ICS will continue to grow and adapt—and where he sees the industry headed in the years to come.

Q: Let’s start off with a little about you. You were with AmerisourceBergen for some time, left and are now back with the company. What led you to return?

PETE BELDEN: Having previously spent 11 years in another part of AmerisourceBergen, two things have always impressed me about the company. One is its singular, mission-driven focus on healthcare. The other is its dedication to constant improvement. Associates at ICS know that their work makes a difference in the lives of patients with cancer or multiple sclerosis or any number of illnesses. So there’s an urgency, energy and passion about their work—and that’s hugely motivating for me as the leader of this business.

Q: What has surprised or impressed you about ICS during your first few months in the role?

PB: Well, I think one significant surprise I’ve experienced is more related to how the market perceives specialty 3PL services. Too often, I think stakeholders view 3PL as just a pick-pack-and-ship operation. Or they feel that all 3PL providers are roughly the same. The reality is that the complexities of 3PL for specialty pharma and the spectrum of service providers are vast. Whether we’re talking about navigating clients through licensure or managing inventory, customer service and AR for billions of dollars in product annually, the specialty 3PL arena is by no means simple or homogeneous. For us—and for me personally—it will be an exciting challenge to build on our legacy of operational excellence while also finding ways to demonstrate why there’s more to 3PL providers than what you see on the surface.


I’ve experienced is more related to how the market perceives specialty 3PL services. Too often, I think stakeholders view 3PL as just a pick-pack-and-ship operation.


Q: So how will ICS do that? How can/should a 3PL provider like ICS set itself apart?

PB: It starts with trust. Our clients have to know that we will execute at the highest level at all times—that we have the people, process and technologies in place to ensure that life-changing products always get where they need to be. But setting ourselves apart also means being more than their 3PL provider. We have to be invested in their success and become an extension of their organizations. And often that means helping them to think more broadly about commercializing their products, working alongside them to connect the dots when it comes to reimbursement strategies or patient support or medication adherence.


Our clients have to know that we will execute at the highest level at all times—that we have the people, process and technologies in place to ensure that life-changing products always get where they need to be.

 

Q: It sounds, then, that the vision for ICS is to move from being strictly a 3PL provider to being an enabler for a broader set of solutions. Would you say that’s accurate?

PB: I would say so. Our clients are looking to reduce complexity, and often that means fewer partners. So if we can help bridge some of the gaps for them by creating an integrated offering with our sister companies, then I think there’s new value ICS can bring. It’s not necessarily a new vision for the organization so much as it is putting together solutions that address clear needs for clients. What won’t change at ICS is the passion and drive our associates bring every day toward excellence in operations and measurable quality.

Q: So where do you feel like you are most primed to have that impact on the organization?

PB: You know, for me, my career has always focused on service and client-directed roles. So I’m ready and excited to continue to grow ICS’ legacy as the leader in bringing tailored offerings to clients. At the same time, it’s crucial for us to create a culture of growth and development within ICS. We’ll focus a number of efforts in the months to come on putting our people in the best position to succeed, giving them the tools and resources they need and making sure they are constantly aligned with the company’s strategy.


So I’m ready and excited to continue to grow ICS’ legacy as the leader in bringing tailored offerings to clients.

 

Q: What about your time at the clinical and commercial packaging companies PCI and AndersonBrecon? How do you feel that experience has translated over to this role at ICS?

PB: There’s definitely a lot of synergy. It starts with just recognizing a lot of the client names—people that we worked with in the packaging business, whether it was clinical or commercial services there. That’s exciting for me. I also see quite a few parallels in the mindset and needs of the client base. These small and mid-sized firms that are developing specialty medicines only have so much bandwidth. They need to be able to focus on the core aspects of their business—like R&D, product sales or generating awareness downstream. ICS has to step in as a trusted partner and serve as that supply chain extension of their business. In the process, we can be an essential component of a manufacturer’s success and in impacting patient lives.

Q: In the conversations that you’ve had with ICS clients already, what are you hearing from them in terms of needs and expectations for ICS?

PB: The conversations I’ve had seem to fall into a couple key themes. One is to continue to deliver operational excellence in 3PL—continue to think proactively about how we can do better in what we’re doing today. The other theme with customers is the request for ICS to take off the blinders and to help them think even more creatively about other opportunities available to them. How can we connect more to the patient? How can we remove more risk out of our supply chain? How can we ensure appropriate reimbursement? We’re always excited to be part of these conversations because it helps to understand our clients’ needs more completely—and in many cases, leverage the services across AmerisourceBergen to deliver a more comprehensive solution that’s easier for the manufacturer to manage.

Q: Where do you see the greatest opportunity for ICS to improve? Where are our opportunities for better service delivery?

PB: Well one key area is in in the broadening of our worldview. With World Courier as part of AmerisourceBergen and directly aligned with ICS, we have the chance to assist our clients in looking at expansion and efficiencies on a global basis. It’s a similar story with Innomar Strategies—AmerisourceBergen’s business in Canada—or Profarma in Brazil. Now, if you’re a manufacturer that’s looking to commercialize your product in Australia or Canada or Latin America, you suddenly have a new, more integrated option available. You have the option of working with a company that’s part of a trusted, global enterprise. At the same time, it’s incumbent upon ICS to make that multi-national experience as seamless as possible for our clients. We need to find ways to create global best practices for 3PL and implement them locally in a tailored way that fits the needs of individual markets.


With World Courier as part of AmerisourceBergen and directly aligned with ICS, we have the chance to assist our clients in looking at expansion and efficiencies on a global basis.

 

Q: Just closing out, what can you share with ICS clients and associates regarding what the business will be like under your leadership?

PB: It comes back to the passion and the engagement and the proactive nature of what we do everyday. I’ve been just really amazed in my first couple of months here at how well engaged folks are. All our associates work with that front-of-mind knowledge that there’s a patient on the end of everything we do here. I want to foster that mindset and make sure everyone knows that yes, we are supply chain experts for the specialty pharmaceutical industry—but we’re also intensely driven by a mission to improve patient outcomes through our work each day.


All our associates work with that front-of-mind knowledge that there’s a patient on the end of everything we do here.



About the Author

Peter Belden is responsible for the strategic and operational oversight of ICS, a business unit of AmerisourceBergen. Mr. Belden joined ICS in August 2014 and, prior to this role, spent 11 years with the AmerisourceBergen Packaging Group where he held roles of increasing responsibility across Sales, Marketing, and General Management leading the US and UK pharmaceutical contract packaging units.
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