Supply Chain Intelligence

Challenges and the road ahead


Supply chains in Asia are fast evolving into smarter, technology-driven systems for the dynamic healthcare industry. Now more than ever, investment in supply chains is taking on a strategic priority in Asia. Supply Chain Intelligence is a crucial area of focus empowering pharma business operators to track the entire supply chain better, get real-time performance insights, and full visibility along the whole process. Thus, they are in a better position to tackle today’s global complexities surrounding supply chains. 


Role of supply chain intelligence in healthcare logistics


Generally, the supply chain refers to the resources needed to deliver goods or services to a customer. Managing the supply chain in healthcare is typically a very complex and fragmented process. Due to increasing competition, rising costs, government regulations, and demand for a higher quality of service, healthcare providers are under enormous pressure. 

Logistics is the gateway for pharmaceutical companies to bring their products to a global marketplace at minimal risks. The real value-add lies in innovation. A strong technology-backed supply chain can provide more in-depth, better insights into transportation, including temperature control and cost optimization. 


Complete visibility and real-time tracking will be game-changers


Products, such as vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, and cell therapies, need to be transported under stringent environmental conditions where temperature, humidity, light exposure, and other variables are tightly controlled. Tracking and monitoring the ingredients from suppliers to the factory, measuring temperature, time, and the location to deliver reliable data and a clear line of sight at every stage is critical. 


This level of visibility and tracking are the top areas that can help supply chain leaders – and therefore, healthcare and pharma providers – to identify efficiencies and gaps and then tie that to their business profitability. Historical data can allow supply chain providers to deploy optimal packaging designs and utilize cold storage facilities during transportation. In contrast, real-time data analysis can flag specific shipments where intervention is required immediately to save a product. For instance, FedEx regulatory compliance is supported by end-to-end tracking technologies that generate extensive data and continuous visibility on biopharmaceutical shipments. 


One example is the SenseAware system–a FedEx innovation–that monitors the temperature, humidity, light exposure, shock events, and other environmental factors that can impact supply chain integrity. The combined multi-sensor device can gather, send, and monitor data, enabling a comprehensive array of real-time tracking. Customers have a clear line of sight at every stage and identify and solve potential risks along a complex supply chain. 


FedEx supports clinical trial projects by providing greater transparency throughout the supply chain. It will not only make the customers’ life more comfortable but also elevate their business and help them connect to a more extensive network in APAC and worldwide. 


Automation will continue to improve, and automated tracking systems will help to reduce the need for manual inventory management and considerably reduce drug wastage due to expiration and spoilage–since facility personnel can be proactively alerted to the status of products in storage. With inventory data digitized, healthcare facilities can work faster, and with added accuracy, to better meet accreditation and government regulation requirements.



Big data will be central to predicting and mitigating risk 


Data and AI will play a key role in Supply Chain Management (SCM) and will empower business operators to conduct real-time data analysis. Modern-day Supply Chain Intelligence (SCI) is digitally driven. It can better help companies slash costs and increase customer satisfaction by combining data and analytics to draw out patterns and look into the future. 


SCM technologies will enhance operational and transactional efficiencies in manufacturing, sourcing, and distribution. SCI technologies can integrate business intelligence with data from SCM systems, providing strategic information to decision-makers. By harnessing data and innovating with technology, manufacturers and their logistics providers can further customize solutions and effectively close the shortage gaps. 


Predictive analytics can enable scientists to identify patterns and gaps and suggest efficiencies, revenue opportunities, potential problems, or competitive advantages. Real-time data can be processed by manufacturers and their supply chain vendors through descriptive analytics to reveal operations patterns. Companies can forecast how their supply chain may evolve and develop risk-mitigation strategies to fix identified weaknesses.



Logistics can drive the development of the healthcare industry supply chain 


The future of the healthcare industry will be global and borderless. The biopharmaceutical boom in Asia is calling for the adoption of new technologies and higher quality cold chain services. With innovative solutions such as “Smart” medical inventory cabinets and sensor-based technologies, FedEx, a logistics industry leader for healthcare and other specialty shipments, continues to identify innovative ways to provide the visibility required by customers up and down the supply chain.


Accurate forecasting, faster response times, ability to recognize shipping patterns to plan for risk, saving on costs, and running a low-to-zero waste operation will be critical parameters for the industry to measure business efficiencies, supplemented by useful supply chain intelligence. Logistics companies must continue to enhance their solutions and remain focused on innovation to aid compliance and cost optimization for their customers in the healthcare industry.



About the Author


Karen Reddington is president of the Asia Pacific Division of FedEx Express, the world’s largest express transportation company.


In this role, which Reddington took up in January 2015, she heads up Asia Pacific from its headquarters in Hong Kong.  Reddington is responsible for leading the FedEx Express business across the region, including overall planning and implementation of corporate strategies and operations across more than 30 countries and territories with about 29,000 team members.


Reddington’s career with FedEx Express began in 1997 as an operations research advisor in Hong Kong.  In 2002, she was appointed managing director of network planning. In 2007, she assumed the role of managing director of planning and engineering.  


Most recently, Reddington was regional vice president, South Pacific. She served in that role between 2011 and 2014.


Reddington is currently serving as the chair of the National Center for APEC (NCAPEC) and board member of the International Women’s Forum. In addition, she serves as the board chair of JA Asia Pacific and is a board member of JA Worldwide.



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