Traditionally, logistics has tended to receive relatively little air time in board meetings, and it’s perhaps not difficult to see why. The cost of logistics as a percentage of sales is usually below 1%, so this area of operation attracts less attention than bigger ticket items. But now there are great opportunities to make the case for logistics as an enabler, raising the profile of the logistics department.

Over recent months, we’ve been working closely with logistics executives in a number of pharmaceutical and medical device companies on projects that clearly justify more board-level airtime. Here are just two stellar examples of logistics elevated to the status of enabler.

Across western China, in order to stay alive, kidney dialysis patients marginalized by poverty, poor sanitation, and remote geographic location have until now faced the grueling prospect of multiple half-day journeys (six per week) to and from the nearest hospital. One of our life sciences customers raised this challenge to the level of a business discussion, asking “How can we serve these patients differently? What can be done to make their lives more tolerable?”

By engaging everyone in a patient-centric discussion, this customer will achieve an incredible turnkey solution – one that can be replicated to serve disadvantaged communities in many other parts of the world as well. With DHL’s support, this customer’s supply chain will securely deliver a portable dialysis unit containing a built-in water purification system to every village in need. To receive their life-saving dialysis treatments, patients will simply stay at home.

My second example refers to two sets of parents in North America who I talked to recently. Separately, they both used the same term – “a nightmare” – to describe the task of caring for their diabetic child. Both families find it very difficult to coordinate the timely supply of nine separate items (not just the insulin itself but also sterilized finger prickers, test strips, insulin cartridges, replacement pump tubes, and more) from as many different suppliers. Some items require a doctor’s prescription along with a visit to the pharmacy; other items can be purchased online, but the parents often lose sight of the delivery schedule.

This is more difficult than it needs to be. Logistics can become an enabler – all that’s required is for the logistics provider, manufacturers, pharmacies, insurers, and governments to work together; each patient or their family could install a simple app on their mobile phone to place and track orders, and even receive timely reminders and alerts.

Logistics has so much more to offer pharmaceutical and medical device companies beyond warehouse storage and A-to-B transportation. Do you have additional examples of elevating logistics to the status of enabler in life sciences? If so, I’d be very interested to hear from you.

Published: July 2017