Remember that time when you ordered something online and the estimated arrival date came and went? Irritating? Yes. But, likely, that was the end of it. You eventually received your shipment and life went on as usual.
While many industries have few repercussions for an occasional late shipment (minus an agitated customer or two), the pharmaceutical industry isn’t one of these. Late arrivals in the pharmaceutical shipping realm can point to temperature excursions, product degradation, or even the loss of a life if an urgent treatment has been delayed.
Obviously, many things are out of your control once your product is in transit. So, analyze (and then fix) the processes that are in your control to improve your metrics. To get you started, here are five areas that may be worth evaluation:
Quality agreements. Do you have them with your vendors? Using these documents to clear up expectations and outline Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may enable and/or motivate your vendors to achieve more favorable outcomes.
Shipping Specification Worksheet. How is your shipment information being transferred among parties? Consider developing a worksheet to host all requirements (e.g., handling instructions, contact information, and shipping container and monitoring details). Track how many fewer phone calls and emails you receive as a result of standardizing this process.
Vendor Metrics. How are you gauging vendor performance? A centralized method that helps you track vendor against vendor and shipper against shipper will help you to match the best vendor and materials to each individual shipment. Plus, the next time your vendor asks for constructive feedback, you’ll have plenty of insights to share, which may result in better service.
Knowledge. What steps make up your shipping process? Are there any that can be eliminated by better leveraging the knowledge within your group? What effect would a new tool have on your process? Focus on the pieces of knowledge that could directly reduce lead times, then acquire or rearrange resources accordingly.
Shippers On-Hand. Do your current shippers accommodate the conditions that your product needs? Or do you spend time sourcing materials with each customized shipment? If you haven’t evaluated your stock in a while, do some research on new materials and configurations that provide more shipping flexibility, and eliminate “materials on-hand” as your bottleneck.
As you analyze your processes, you may identify other areas that more directly impact your pharmaceutical shipping metrics. The method is the same though: challenge your existing processes, and fix those elements that will reduce lead times. The result could be better metrics, and if so, great! And then there are those times when it could save your product. Or that patient.
Originally posted on September 16, 2013 under BioConvergence now dba Singota Solutions