When it comes to supply chains, the pharmaceutical supply chain is probably the most heavily regulated of all–and for good reason. Even the smallest error in shipping and storage can impact the efficacy of a product and put lives at risk. Adhering to pharmaceutical supply chain best practices is crucial to ensure pharmaceuticals are delivered swiftly and safely.
Supply chain automation is one way companies can simplify the implementation of best practices. Automation reduces the amount of labor required to adhere to best practices. Methods such as intelligent pallet tracking through RFID and barcode scanning, automated storage and retrieval systems, and supportive software help managers streamline pharmaceutical supply chain best practices and improve overall operations.
5 Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Best Practices
An aging population is driving an increased need for pharmaceuticals, with the market estimated to reach more than $1 trillion in 2021. As demand climbs, pharmaceutical manufacturers and those in the supply chain will have to improve delivery to remain competitive. Here are five best practices that will be essential in the years to come.
Cold chain supply management is crucial to ensure products spend as little time exposed to ambient temperatures as possible.
1. Leverage cloud-based software networks
The many actors in the supply chain need a single place to communicate, as the pharmaceutical supply chain is often fragmented. Point-to-point connections used to be the go-to method for sharing information, but these had their limitations as they were often a logistical hassle for managers who had to reach out to multiple points of contact. A single, cloud-based consolidated space for sharing pharmaceutical manufacturing and shipping details is crucial to ensure real-time visibility and clear communication.
2. Tailor channels based on demand
Data and demand forecasts can help companies better understand where they need to ship products and when. As the window on these deliveries is short, setting up separate channels for medications based on their expected demand helps to improve efficiency and ensure rapid delivery.
3. Maintain and monitor temperature consistently
Extreme temperatures are dangerous in the pharmaceutical industry, as any extreme can reduce the efficacy of the product. Pharmaceuticals must be carefully stored and monitored to ensure they stay at the correct temperature at all times. Cold chain supply management is crucial in these instances to ensure products spend as little time exposed to ambient temperatures as possible. Storage policies should ensure products are not stored near doorways or in any path of constant ingress and egress in order to reduce exposure risk.
Lean supply chain practices are one way of ensuring processes are regularly reviewed.
4. Choose proactive security
Theft and counterfeiting are major problems in the pharmaceutical supply chain. As a result, security must be proactive rather than reactive. Access should be controlled and monitored at all times to reduce the risk of tampering and theft. Having deterrent features like surveillance cameras and electronic locks with user credentials can reduce the risk inherent in pharmaceutical supply chains.
5. Audit processes regularly
Lean supply chain practices are one way of ensuring processes are regularly reviewed. The lean methodology breaks each basic process into the individual steps that employees take to reach a viable product. Using this method, managers can look at each step in the process of creating, storing, transporting, and delivering medications and see where wasted time or resources occur. They can use these audits to improve their processes and ensure that the pharmaceutical supply chain is running efficiently every step of the way.
Using Automation and Tools to Enhance Pharmaceutical Supply Chains
Many of the five best practices above involve automation or can be improved by incorporating some level of automation. The process of tracking pallets of products, for example, can be simplified through the use of pallets with embedded RFID chips and barcodes. RFID-enabled pallets work well in conjunction with cloud-based software systems that link the pallet’s unique code to information in the system. Meanwhile, smart thermostats can create the ideal environment for storing medication and can send alerts when a storage area reaches a certain temperature. Pharmaceutical cold chains also benefit from the use of automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) which streamline product handling and reduce the risk of temperature lapses due to employee error.
To ensure automation in your supply chain works as efficiently as possible, consider upgrading to plastic pallets.
Clearly, automation is an important tool for supporting pharmaceutical supply chain best practices. But automated systems don’t function alone–they must work in conjunction with existing tools and equipment. To ensure automation in your supply chain works as efficiently as possible, consider upgrading to plastic pallets. High-quality plastic pallets have a unibody construction and bend before they break, eliminating the wood splinters and debris left behind by wood pallets that often cause stoppages and equipment damage. Along with their uniform size, shape, and weight, their sturdy construction makes plastic pallets excellent partners for automation of any kind. For instance, RFID chips aren’t a practical addition to easily broken wood pallets, but can be securely embedded in plastic platforms along with a barcode for easy tracking via a handheld scanner or RFID reader.
Pharmaceutical supply chain best practices should ensure consistent, responsible handling through every part of the process. Tracking, temperature control, and process management are all crucial components of responsible handling. Supported by plastic pallets, ASRS and other forms of automation can also minimize industry issues such as employee error and equipment damage. As pharmaceutical demand grows, it’s vital that manufacturers adopt practices and tools that support the growing demand for medication worldwide in a safe and efficient manner.
iGPS plastic pallets support pharmaceutical supply chain best practices by enabling tracking using embedded RFID and barcode systems. To improve your pharmaceutical supply chain with our plastic pallet pooling program, contact us at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.