Avoid Going for the Cheapest Quote

Rodney Wee

Dr. Rodney Wee, Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Cold Chain Centre speaks to IQPC on the challenges, difficulties and best practices in the cold chain pharmaceutical landscape.

What are some of the challenges faced when cutting costs on the consumables and effective waste elimination cycle?

Assuming that consumables are related to packaging (incl. handling, storage and transport), then all packaging must meet the minimum health standards plus meet that following sample of objectives:

  1. Protection from contamination (introduced, accidental & cross contamination)
  2. Maintain shelf life.
  3. Ease of handling from production to consumer
  4. Suitable for storage up to extreme weather, temperature and humidity conditions.
  5. Allow for disposal (if possible bio-degradable)

To err in any one or more of the above, may cause serious illness and even death, issues like use of recyclable packaging is not normally considered under FMEA (Failure Mode Effects & Analysis) and costs of such items are already built into the main direct production costs and not as indirect materials.

The main challenge is then the disposal of such consumables which is important although not as critical as used syringes, vaccine vials, etc which are considered medical waste and have their own protocols to follow.

What are some of the best ways to improve a company’s ability to implement high quality, secure and cost effective transportation in the cold chain cycle?

Work with selected Third Party Logistics Providers (3PLs) to develop a strategic partnership and in so doing have a transparent supply chain to each and every relevant destination (using FMEA) with a protocol for worse case scenarios.

Get involved with the training and development of all parties (staff) in the chain for an effective team to operate daily with minimised risk (and costs).

Avoid going for the cheapest quote as some do and check transshipment venues for facilities (or lack), or aircraft containers left in intense on-tarmac heat or lack of thermal blankets, etc.

Ship direct as much as possible as more transshipment means greater risk exposure to errors, omissions, product deterioration and contamination. Some 3PLs may be well managed and equipped in one sector but are not in others. Some may rely on their overseas partners who are less than efficient or effective, so it’s best to work with a few good service partners.

What are some of the cold chain best practices for understanding shipping multiple product sizes efficiently and what were some of the initial difficulties in adopting these best practices?

Serious studies of each product and its requirements under varying conditions. Some may require controlled atmosphere, some have short shelf-life, and others are prone to contamination under changing conditions for example vaccines, test kits, etc. Other products cannot be compromised – for clinical trials, etc

The initial difficulties one might face include changing mindsets, practicing what has been taught in training. Self as well as third party audits.

What are some of the challenges in setting the Key Performance Indicatorsto make surethatyou are saving money in the long run?

Despite claims to the contrary, many organisations’ management (and/or auditing consultants) generally set key process indicators based on many factors, some of which are academic and impractical to practitioners on the ground.

It would be beneficial and even cost effective in the long run to include all parties especially those actually carrying out operations to be involved from the beginning. Their self-audits will be more stringent when they sign-off on any part operation.

I’ve heard a logistics company proudly claim a 13 percent success rate on clinical trials and wonder if that’s acceptable to the biopharma organisation’s KPI since they were not around to comment.