We’ve all had those moments. Nights when no matter how hard you try, different ideas and thoughts keep churning in your mind, making it hard to fall asleep. For life sciences and healthcare logistics professionals, it seems there are some common threads that weave through the nocturnal thinking.

At DHL we are privileged to host over 400 senior supply chain and logistics experts within pharmaceuticals, medical devices and clinical trials organizations at the annual DHL Global Life Sciences & Healthcare Conference, now in its 18th year. From 2014 onwards, we’ve been asking participants to share with us what is most pressing for them - likely, what keeps them awake. I'd like to pull back the drapes and cast daylight on some of those sleep stealers.

  • Two topics have consistently been at the top of the list: temperature control and cost efficiency. Over time, they have remained highly relevant and look set to continue in top position for years to come. Even when it’s too hot to fly, come what may, "extremely vulnerable pharmaceuticals must be transported with end-to-end cold chain traceability, sensitive items (including multimillion dollar equipment) must arrive undamaged, and everything has to be delivered on time." Lives depend on it.
  • A hot topic in 2014 and 2015 – growing emerging markets – has lately receded in importance. Surely there are improvements to be made, but overall, logistics professionals in the life sciences and healthcare industry feel they have been able to establish well-defined supply chains and effective processes in emerging markets and can sleep more soundly now, knowing that patients are being reached with more ease.
  • It remains very important to ensure regulatory compliance, although this has become less of a burning priority in recent years. A strong reason may be that life sciences and healthcare companies, particularly manufacturers, are now more in control, having gained essential experience in managing compliance through 3PLs and their own operations.
  • Serialization continues to keep awake many life sciences and healthcare logistics professionals – it was high on the list in 2014 and has remained there every year since, driven by regulatory needs and revisions. I have addressed the topic in previous blogs - i.e.: What do bitcoin and track-and-trace serialization have in common? - and will surely keep on doing so given the new mandatory global serialization standards.
  • Apparently, there is one topic that no longer keeps everyone tossing and turning. Back in 2014, 4PL control tower setup was in everyone's minds; however, in the latest survey, this has sunk down the list and other topics have taken higher priority and made it to the top of the list.

There are many other topics that gain consistent attention – transport mode optimization, supply chain differentiation and transformation, risk management and more. It will be very interesting to see which of these topics will move up, slip down or get added to the list at our next global conference in Milan/Lake Maggiore from 26-28 June this year.

The insights from this annual survey help to keep DHL one step ahead. Using this data, we are able to pinpoint and develop the solutions required by logistics professionals in the life sciences and healthcare industry. For us, it is a top priority to listen to the voice of our customers and continually adjust our strategy to reflect current and future challenges.

I’ll be returning to this list of key topics in future blogs so if you’d like to read more, please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Meanwhile, I’m always very keen to hear your point of view. What keeps you awake?

Published: May 2018

Images: Shutterstock, DHL