Working to stay at the cutting edge
According to Peter Bromley, director of healthcare strategy at Atlanta-based express integrator UPS, the company's acquisition of Italian pharmaceuticals forwarder Pieffe last year (ACW, 12 December' 11, p2) is part of the global healthcare strategy at UPS "to offer the broadest global network of services based on integrated services, including our air freight, small package and distribution business across the globe".
In particular: "Italy is part of our EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) group of populations of consumption. It's one of the largest economies in Europe. Some companies manufacture pharmaceuticals in Italy, but no more than elsewhere in Europe - it's more about the consumption market.
Some of those facilities may be leased as part of organic growth at UPS while others might be established through alliances or through acquisition, as appropriate. He said the network hubs will be centered around areas where there is a population with sufficient demand for consumption of pharmaceuticals and other healthcare goods. Bromley added: "We're also looking at emerging markets that are less well served by traditional 3pls (third-party logistics providers) - places like Turkey or Central and Eastern Europe."
He feels that pharma is an important sector globally, and it is also the fastest-growing segment within UPS. "For example, in 2008 with the economic crisis, the healthcare sector was expanding even as many other industries were contracting," Bromley was keen to point out.
"Usually it had been growing at around 8 percent a year, while in 2008-9 it grew by around 4 percent. It's a good sector for us to be in because it doesn't go away - we all need medicine. It's also an industry that recognises operational excellence and regulatory compliance, which are thing UPS is very good at."
In fact: "Top of mind for pharma companies, and therefore for us, is the regulatory environment and compliance," Bromley observed. "Our customers are always concerned about patient security and the secure supply of products to patients.
"The good distribution practice guidelines cover storage but there are proposed changes out there that would cover transport too. Temperature-sensitive conditions need to be maintained throughout the transit cycle, right across the supply chain because temperature excursions can affect some pharmaceutical products in negative ways, impairing their efficacy.
"Healthcare is not a sector that stands still, what with the emerging markets, changes to regulations and also lots of innovation," Bromley remarked, noting the UPS PharmaPort 360 shipping container, manufactured by US-based Cool Containers, that can heat and cool its contents for up to 100 hours without the use of dry ice (ACW, 10 October '11, p6).
"We're building the inventory now and some of the containers are out with customers for them to carry out their own quality assurance testing. We've had a lot of positive interest. We will continue to work with our customers to drive new solutions," he concluded.