Building Supply Chain Competencies for Indian Pharma Logistics
V Raju
Vice President – Contract Logistics - Chemical ,
Pharma & Food Sector
Avvashya CCI Logistics

Supply chain and logistic are critical and essential enabler for the pharmaceutical industry to deliver the right product, in the right quality, and at the right time to the end consumer. In the complex Indian environment , there arise many challenges that place a hurdle in our effort for smooth process. This article tries to identify those constrains and challenges and also include what are the developments that need to fall in place to meet requirements.

The biopharma market is in the early stages of its next transformation. Thus , unless supply chain logistics keeps pace with these transformations, the end solution for which we are all putting in our best efforts will remain a distant dream for all of us. Clinical pipelines are being filled with increasingly intricate targets and medicines, including next generation cell and gene therapies, an emerging field known as regenerative medicine. This is the next generation advancement towards which globally, the pharma labs are destined to move to.

With growth rates far outpacing other areas within the pharmaceutical industry, it is anticipated that the regenerative medicines market size will reach USD 49.41 billion by 2021, a CAGR of 23.7 percent.

Without question, advanced cellular therapies require comprehensive, welldesigned and enhanced cold chain management solutions based on all elements of packaging, data collection and analysis, as well as supply chain logistics expertise to ensure effective patient treatments with the highest quality products. Where the industry is headed for storage requirements for these therapy medicines? Unless, the required temperature controlled storages are ready with most modern technology to keep monitoring the cold effects, we will not be able to realize the final results. Companies in this space have been racing to adapt and develop new standards, best practices and technology innovations.

Indian Scenario

As a global pharma player, India is going through an interesting phase in the pharma world. Currently, the Indian pharma market is pegged at $30 billion, with the country accounting for the highest number of FDA approvals after the USA. Companies have embarked on a growth trajectory, aspiring to become a hub for low cost manufacturing and R & D, and yet they are also facing a unique set of local and global challenges that are creating significant pressure to tighten the end to end supply chain operations. This is the key in pharma logistics. Unless Supply Chain operations get revamped with additions of technology, skilled man power and strategic thinking, we will not be able to move forward.

Companies are looking at the next phase of growth, but there is signifi cant gap between the strategic vision and operational reality. Quality issues and price pressures have spiralled across the value chain , triggered by more regulatory scrutiny . Infrastructure although better than in the past , is still a serious concern. Key challenges that Indian organization face is that the business differentiator is shifting from being reverse engineering experts to having improved operational performance parameters such as service levels and cost to deliver.

Growth for India's pharma industry hinges on:
  • Physical capacity and ability to expand business volumes and face operational challenges.
  • Increase in manufacturing capacity
  • Expansion of cold chain and packaging capabilities
  • Augmenting people and organization capacity with onus on quality skills and training
  • Process capabilities
  • Major R & D investments that are needed to develop new drug formulations
  • Improved Automation and technology transfer
  • Growth support through supply chain maturity and quality assurance

The above mentioned concerns have been triggered by varying degrees of infrastructural development in developing markets of Asia along with rapid growth rates and non-harmonized regulations. Along with infrastructure issues, the handling of pharma cargo through transshipment ports and transshipment points is also an issue in our country, where inadequate training or care on the part of site staff can lead to supply chain logistics problems. Lack of IT sophistication in the domestic logistics sector, whose efficacies have been marred by the limited use of RFID sensors and technological tools, has made it difficult for manufacturers to execute basic tasks like tracking cargoes. There is a dire need for high technology enabled and process managed cargo storage and handling facilities to operate efficiently in India, which calls for high level of investments. India is well established and recognized for its intellectual talent and as a low cost sourcing location. However, it needs to be backed by an increasing trend in world class storage and handling infrastructure for its imports and exports. A long-term investment strategy is needed for augmenting the country's warehousing, ground handling, storage, and IT infrastructure and transportation capabilities.

Today, the need of the hour is good standard warehouses with high sense of technology and efficient processes being implemented at the ground level to instill the confidence in importers and exporters of pharma products. Good storage practices and good manufacturing practices go hand in hand and it is the duty of manufacturers and service providers to ensure their smooth provision. There is a need to expedite the building of temperature controlled warehouses at key locations to increase the lifespan of pharma products and maintain their quality standards, failing which the products may get damaged and finally become redundant. Creating a resource pool of quality control experts having advanced technology knowledge and updated with the subject expertise is imperative to rooting out contamination of pharma goods at the inception stage from storage locations. Quality checks and notes on every shipment or consignment leaving or moving into the warehouses have to be maintained. Proper record keeping along with routine audit checks on the storage, handling practices need to be implemented at ground levels. Manufacturers have to be extremely careful while selecting supply chain logistics providers to ensure that routine audit checks on storage, handling practices are implemented at the ground level. Few companies provide state-of-theart packaging services in India.

In case of cool chain pharma products, the shipper needs to evaluate on parameters like quality, training of people and selection of a good logistics service provider to handle their products correctly with high quality packaging solutions. Substantial improvement needs to be done in the area of cargo handling knowledge, storage in transit and packaging pharma products in transit which, in turn, will improve the shelf life of pharma products.

Temperature controlled warehouses need to have data loggers and regular monitoring procedures that shall ensure that required temperatures are provided. In addition trained professional staff wearing the required protective clothing is required to ensure quality work is done at all times. Such good storage and handling practices ensure in preservation of the products and stabilizes prices by managing their shelf life and regulating the supplies.

Fast track road transportation for temperature controlled pharma products needs to be given impetus in alignment with RFID tags fitted on vehicles and checkpoints. This will help in speeding transit times for pharma products and obliterate the need for intermittent checkpoint halts. Companies today are focusing on technology adoption, increasing regulatory expertise and partnerships with outside experts to overcome various compliance challenges. For an industry facing the complexities of a longer supply chain, the adoption of partnerships and information technology assumes paramount importance in the current context.

IT investments in the logistics domain will be led by order management and web ordering technology, though the healthcare executives will continue to invest highly into temperature sensitive, security specific and serialization technologies in coming years.

Large and professionally managed companies like Avvashya CCI logistics can serve the needs of the pharma logistics industry. We have the ability to develop strategic supply chain models and integrated processes for building in efficiencies. Our strategically located temperature controlled warehouses at Panvel and Bangalore ensure time critical deliveries, keep a keen track on product expiry which is critical in pharma logistics, undertake detailed inventory planning, all this with the help of highly trained manpower.

A well designed supply chain with robust planning cycles that take care of various lead times in the end to end supply chain can help achieve speed to market as well as an agile supply chain. Logistics competencies of pharma products in developed countries are far evolved as compared to the Indian market, but the emerging growth opportunities in the sector will drive us towar

ds achieving international standards. What we need is quality compliance in supply chain services, effective delivery system, faster connectivity, good distribution practice, and total unfussy paper work which are the major differentiators between our country and developed countries. The positioning of India in the global pharma market will largely be determined by the three G's - good manufacturing practices, good storage practices and good distribution practices, coupled with trained and professional manpower for improved product handling supported by the country's industry-friendly policies and compliances.