Reuse, Reverse & Requalify: Reusable Shipping Systems in Pharma Distribution

Cold Chain IQ

The advantages of using reusable passive shipping systems can boil down to two important factors; the difference in cost of these over other forms of shipping systems, and the debate over the environment and the effect that each of these will have on it.

An integrated supply chain strategy that incorporates both forward and reverse logistics becomes increasingly important in an increasingly globalised and stretched supply chain management reality. Effective reverse logistics can help manufacturers reduce 40-60% costs by only 20% of the manufacturing effort. (Tan, A.W.K. and Hosie, P. 2010)

Reverse logistics is all about setting metrics for cost saving and efficiency-boosting investments. The main challenge is to devise a reusable system that will have lower cost than a one-way system.

Martin Wegner, Vice President of DHL Solutions and Innovations (DSI), spoke to Cold Chain IQ at 11th Annual Cool Chain Logistics Europe eventabout the need for a smart solution to overcome this challenge: "The availability plays a big role in this, because in a lot of cases face imbalanced trade lanes so we have demand in one way, but no demand the way back, which this puts a challenge on the containers, because you would have to transport them back without any goods inside, which again increases the cost. "

In the next 2- 3 years Wenger believes we will see a big uptake in reusable systems due to cost pressure, especially in the transportation of generics.
"I believe with reusable systems we can reduce cost, which will meet the needs the of the pharmaceutical industry, especially looking at generics, where we see the need for alternative and low cost solutions based on reusable systems., " he said.

In contrast, some also question whether reverse logistics really save money, when further validation is always required to ensure temperature assurance and re-testing of equipment is required to make sure packaging is still reusable.

Gary Hutchinson, President at Modality Solutions commented: "I don’t think reusable packaging systems are going to get much of an uptake because I think the challenges are just really too great. "

He continued: "Because a lot of the reusable technologies, especially the vacuum panels, are fairly fragile in the sense that they can very quickly end up losing their effectiveness if they’re damaged in transit. So, you’re going to have to put some sort of inspection or requalification in place to make sure the equipment that you sent out is still viable.’"

It is crucial to build a robust quality assurance process to avoid costly delays. For all companies their experience of forward logistics is greater than of their reverse logistics. "Everyone’s goal is to succeed and see their compound through regulatory approval and through to commercial success reversing the process distances you from this goal," said Robert Bronstein, Director of Clinical Supply Operations, MacroGenics.

The need to reduce risk in reverse logistics is just as important as for forward logistics. "Risk mitigation for the reverse supply chain is difficult and requires planning for all possible outcomes. You must always have a plan ready to execute should it become necessary to reverse the clinical supply chain or recall a product or component," Bronstein said.

Bronstein shared example of one of the processes that MacroGenics have in place to bring clinical supplies back.

When initiating a site they have the site fill out documentation with regards to their destruction capabilities. Should anything negative occur at the site, can they destroy product at the site or do they need to return? This enables MarcoGenics to plan a strategy in advance.

In order to measure the success of reverse logistics, clear goals must be set for customers and partners to evaluate their partners’ capabilities in reverse logistics. This will also further demand for visibility and real-time tracking in pharma logistics.

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