'cool supply chain the ultimate aim'

Healthcare Shippers Need Certified Air Cargo Supply Chain

Healthcare Shippers Need Certified Air Cargo Supply Chain

The air cargo industry will have to keep pace with the explosive growth of the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry is going through an impressive expansion which has a direct impact on the supply chains needed. The second day of an event at Liege Airport looked into the chances of the air cargo industry as a preferred logistics partner.

Envirotainer’s RKN t2 containers are designed to keep pharma shipments at optimum temperature
- company courtesy -

The term ‘pharma logistics’ is somewhat deceptive, as the biopharma industry also involves biotech products, biosimilar medical devices and a range of others products having a direct impact on healthcare and wellbeing. The evolution of the market was outlined by Franck Toussaint, Managing Director of Biolog Europe. This non-profit organisation is a vehicle set up by ‘Logistics in Wallonia’, a cluster of more than 300 companies promoting Wallonia as a logistics hub.

He named time and stability as the main criteria shippers of the healthcare industry deploy when determining a transport mode. “When the value does not play a role, ocean freight will prevail due to the lower price. The higher the value, the more air cargo is chosen. “In the end, however, it is all about risk management.”

Sky-high growth
The growth of the trade balance for pharma etc. is twice the rate of the other industries. It is estimated at US$1,260 bln in 2018, of which US$300 bln account for cold chain products. India will be the largest pharma manufacturer in the world by 2030. Global trends reveal a tremendous emergence of biosimilars (officially approved versions of original ‘innovator’ products, and can be manufactured when the original product's patent expires, MS), 3D-printed prophesises and human tissue, personal medicine, cell therapy, medical devices and diagnosis.
Population growth will create the necessity to set up manufacturing plants in Africa. The total value of the pharmaceutical market is estimated at incredible US$1.6 trl by 2020. Contract manufacturing will increase, as will fusions and mergers. “All these aspects will have an impact on the supply chain, which will have to find a new role and step into this evolution”, said Franck.

Risk management
He re-stated that risk management is the industry’s main concern. “In the U.S. there were 1,200 product recalls in 2015. The Eli Lilly Enfield case, a notorious heist seizing US$70 mln worth of medicines from a U.S. warehouse and the recent French dead due to a failed experiment are but a few of the problems the industry tries to steer away from.”

“The actors in the supply chain will have to become increasingly aware of challenges like new technology, traceability, home healthcare, crisis management (anticipation as well as risk management), counterfeiting, cold chain management and hygiene. Certification is a must!)”

Andrea Gruber, Senior Manager Special Cargo IATA - (picture: Marcel Schoeters)

IATA decided to act
Andrea Gruber, Senior Manager Special Cargo IATA, admitted that the aviation industry had to act. She reminded the audience of the set-up of the ‘Time & Temperature Task Force’  (TTTF) in 2007. “Even then, we were reproached on losing pharma traffic to the sea mode. We realised that a supply chain approach was needed.”

IATA, too, looked into the growth of the market in question and evaluated the shippers’ needs. “We identified issues like the concern on the integrity of the products, the regulations and temperature excursions while the products are still in the hands of the supply chain partners. Time for improvement, so we came up with our concept of CEIV – Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators.”

CEIV is the way forward
“At IATA we feel that the shift from air to ocean should be based on business models and not on the choice between a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ mode. CEIV is built on the importance of partnerships. We would like to take this concept into global certified trade lanes. To date we have 26 certifications in place worldwide, with another 57 in progress.”

Certification is, however, only the first step, Andrea said: “The air cargo industry must transform itself into a lean adaptive and innovative industry, centred on increasingly sophisticated customer demands.”

To this audience different from the day before, Cargo Development manager Bert Celis of Liege Airport repeated his presentation on the advantages of the airport and its community. He then gave the floor to representatives of three handling companies, involved in pharma handling: Aviapartner, LACHS, owned by Israeli carrier CAL Cargo Air Lines, and Swissport. They are all CEIV-certified, even if the certification may be exclusive for stations where it is actually needed.