Improving logistics management:  preventing drug shortages through better visibility

Posted by James Colson - AstraZeneca Global Account Manager on 01-Nov-2018 10:24:00
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Our previous blogs considered the causes of healthcare supply chain failures, which often result in product losses due to breaches in compliance.   Within logistics, minimising product losses will help contribute to reducing drug shortages overall – not just for the pharmaceuticals associated within a particular shipment but for the resource associated with replacing lost product too, which could have been spent elsewhere in the business. 

Elderly patient looking at a nurse in hospital ward

As supply chains continue to grow in complexity, so does the importance of visibility throughout; with research indicating that this is now considered “essential” for long-term competitiveness.  Supply chain visibility has been reported to improve efficiency, integrity and innovation across businesses. For logistics management, it has resulted in improved planning, reduced dwell time at delivery and collection points, and improved on time in full (OTIF) deliveries.

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Within the healthcare industry, visibility is crucial to safeguard the end patient’s wellbeing.  This is particularly valid for cold chain logistics, where data concerning the temperature, humidity and other environmental regulations is essential for monitoring the conditions that pharmaceuticals are being stored and transported in.  Yet, as more healthcare companies move towards a just-in-time inventory strategy, the need for international visibility of shipments across different regions and transport modes is crucial to ensure there is no unanticipated delay in getting the goods to their end destination.  This is where the improved visibility of the Logistics Control Tower can benefit healthcare operations. 

The Control Tower provides a single point of view to control and manage all shipments, across every mode and region, and in real-time.  Shipments can be tracked, traced and temperature monitored, allowing for any deviations to be identified at the time, if not before, the incident occurs.  Pre-emptive alerts, such as temperature warnings, can show when a shipment is nearing to a failure point, whilst estimated time of arrivals are continuously updated and communicated to reduce dwell time. 


Through improved visibility, controllers can make better informed decisions based on real-time and accurate data.  This allows solutions to be actioned immediately, rather than on a reflective basis.  An effective Control Tower solution will also identify key trends, illustrating where failures are occurring and instigating resolutions to improve these.  As the number of partners, modes, routes and regions within the healthcare supply chain grows, it becomes harder to retain control.  By understanding where the challenges lie across international and multi-modal flows, strategies to improve performance can focus specifically on these target areas.  

These improvements will ultimately result in less product losses and a better OTIF performance.  With shipments containing drugs that have a limited supply, the importance of safeguarding product integrity is even more crucial.  The visibility that a Logistics Control Tower offers provides up-to-date, accurate and informative data across the entire supply chain to allow for better informed decisions and, in turn, a higher level of control.


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Topics: Healthcare logistics

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