5 Factors Shaping the Future of Life Sciences Temperature Controlled Logistics

5 Factors Shaping the Future of Life Sciences Temperature Controlled Logistics

By: Elizabeth Mixson

#1 Biopharma Skills Shortage

Numerous factors such as the surge of retiring baby boomers, increased demand for workers with complex skill sets, and changing labor demands have resulted in an unprecedented, cross-industry talent acquisition crisis. Unless we as a society completely rethink the way we work, this shortage of skilled talent is only expected to intensify over the next few decades. Furthermore, this war for talent could disproportionately impact the life sciences supply chain sector.  Currently, the demand to supply ratio of jobs to qualified individuals in the logistics/supply chain sector is 6 to 1 but could grow as high as 9 to 1, according to a study by DHL. After all, experts estimate that roughly 25-33% of the current supply chain workforce is at or beyond retirement age. Compounding that issue is the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is also facing a talent shortage of its own. One research report by PhRMA found that 60% of the US’s pharmaceutical industry jobs could be vacant by 2025.

Given the growing complexity and digital nature of temperature controlled pharmaceutical supply chains, it’s safe to assume that, unless immediate action is taken, the impact of the growing talent shortage could be catastrophic. With this in mind, re-imagining and enhancing the way future pharma cold chain leaders are recruited, engaged and educated should be a top priority for life sciences firms. Pharma firms must also be prepared for a future where many of the traditional functions of supply chain management will be taken over by AI and bots. Upskilling existing SCM talent while also hiring to support the next generation of SCM tech will be critical for ensuring future growth and profitability. 

Lastly, according to the same DHL survey quoted before, nearly 70% of survey respondents said that the perceived lack of growth and status of supply chain roles was detrimental to their ability to attract and retain top notch talent. What’s clear from this statistic is the supply chain role is in dire need of a re-brand. Finding new ways to present cold chain management is an exciting, intellectually stimulating career path with numerous on and off ramps will be key to attracting the next wave of top notch talent. 

#2 The Patient-Centric Suppy Chain

The growing prevalence of personalized medicine along with outcomes based pricing will lead to more patient-centric supply chains. As defined by AstraZeneca and their team of healthcare partners, the patient-centric supply chain means, “putting the patient first in an open and sustained engagement of the patient to respectfully and compassionately achieve the best experience and outcome for that person and their family.” At the heart of the patient-centric supply chain are 4 objectives: cost-effectiveness, accelerated speed of delivery, patient safety and agility.

Transitioning to a patient-centricity delivery model will require pharmaceutical firms to completely redesign how they approach the full, end-to-end supply chain. Though traditional approaches placed patients at the very end of the supply chain, in the future, the needs and demands of patient will actually shape the products journey from the earliest days of R&D to patient delivery. By leveraging advanced analytics and next gen digital SCM tools, pharma manufacturers will be able to more effectively understand and predict demand. Furthermore, engaging patients throughout the SCM process and working with them to co-create new, innovative solutions will become the new norm.

Leading-edge manufacturers such as Amicus Therapeutics, Progressive Care, Kite Pharma and Acceleron Pharma have already begun their transformation towards patient-centricity. At the upcoming Cold Chain Conference, pharma logistics leaders from these companies will share how they were able to establish a customer first mentality to drive behavioral standards, accountability and competitive advantage. We’ll even have John Crowley, Chairman & CEO, Amicus Therapeutics and author of Chasing Miracles joining us as our Day One Keynote Speaker to discuss the importance of cultivating a patient-centric company culture to add deeper meaning to drug development processes and the value of building patient advocacy into everyday business practices.

#3 The Smart Digital Supply Chain 

Experts predict that well within the next decade, the dream of achieving true end-to -end visibility will become a reality. With the emergence of new, digital solutions such as blockchain, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, autonomous technology and a myriad of other potential innovations will come a new era of cold chain management. As mentioned before, these new technologies will not only bring to the table a myriad of benefits such as cost-savings, increased agility and improved accountability, it will also change the very nature of SCM.

AI enabled sensors will have the ability to automatically adjust temperature settings using real-time climate data sand human intervention. Improved routing technology and autonomous navigation systems will determine the best route to take. Robots will manage and warehouse inventory while AI will take over many of the transactional tasks. Drones and autonomous vehicles will transport and move products throughout the supply chain. Combined, these solutions will enable full end-to-end supply chain visibility, improved patient safety, increased efficiency and a myriad of other benefits. The challenge, as mentioned before, will be ensuing that your organization has the right technical talent in place to implement and optimize these solutions.

#4 The Circular Economy 

Due to diminishing natural resources and the increased need to reduce all types of waste (physical, financial and time), production processes across all sectors will transition from being linear (manufacture, use and dispose) to circular (reduce, reuse and recycle). Though this transition to a circular economy will undoubtedly change the world for the better, it does pose a number of significant challenges for pharma cold chain leaders.

In fact, many life sciences companies are already experimenting with reusable packaging. However, the results have still been mixed. Considering thermal packaging can be very expensive, some organizations have been able to successfully reduce costs by investing in reusable packaging for temperature controlled product. On the over hand, the complexity and expense of reverse logistics has been too much for some life sciences companies to bear. Reusable packaging also increases the financial risk associated with theft and, as it takes additional resources to transport the packaging back to it’s point of origin, isn’t always the most “green” option available.

Though the reusable packaging has yet to become a viable option for all pharmaceutical products, the industry is making strides. Companies such as DHL, Cold Chain Technologies, EMBALL’ISO, Cryopak, Pelican and many more are hard at work developing new innovative reusable packaging containers and systems.  At the upcoming CCGF we’ll have numerous sessions devoted to reusable packaging and reverse logistics such as: 

  • Safely Transporting Pharmaceuticals, Clinical Trials, Diagnostics, Tissue, Vaccines and Blood Supplies by Jan Gerbers, R.Ph., PharmDWholesale Drug Distributor Licensing Consultant, Eli Lilly and Company
  • Reusable and Recyclable Packaging by Bryan CardisConsultant Packaging Engineer, Eli Lilly & Company
  • Cold Chain Technologies Site Tour


#5 Higher Margins

Since it’s inception, one of the key objectives of SCM has been cost-reduction and efficiency. In fact, according to a widely cited report by CargoSense:

  • 30% of discarded pharmaceuticals can be attributed solely to logistics issues.
  • 25% of vaccines reach their destination degraded due to incorrect shipping.
  • 20% of temperature-sensitive products are damaged during transport due to a broken cold chain.

However, the days of relying on inefficient, out-of-date cold chain solutions and strategies are done. Due to increased governmental pressure to reduce the price of drugs coupled with soaring R&D costs, will have to dramatically reduce the costs associated with the transportation and distribution of drugs to ensure ongoing profitability. In order to achieve such levels of cost reduction will take more than just re-thinking supply chain processes and investing in new, digital SCM solution, but full blown cultural transformation.

At the upcoming cold chain global forum, Eli Lilly, Nanoly Bioscience, Biogen and many others will share how they dramatically reduced their temperature controlled supply chain costs to usher in a new era of profitability. Get a birds eye view of all of the various facets of cost reduction from automation to increased collaboration to advanced analytics. You can learn more about what we have in store for you here.