A pharma shippers’ perspective on how to improve the airfreight process:
Ruud van der Geer, Associate Director Supply Chain Management EMEA at MSD, discusses some of the key challenges impacting the pharma airfreight supply chain, and how industry partners can collaborate to implement positive change.
What are the biggest challenges within the pharma airfreight process, currently and for the future?
In my opinion, the biggest challenges lie in the alignment of business expectations and the associated risk of damage to the integrity of products. Currently, there are conflicting expectations between the pharma shippers community and industry standards linking IATA Temperature Control Regulations (TCR) within air cargo handling. This is in contrast to other transport modes, where the expectations are clear and the risks are lower. Additionally, there are challenges related to capacity on various routes, in which pharma has to compete with perishables or online express deliveries. These are issues that we, as a pharma airfreight community, must resolve in order to ensure efficiency for the future.
Where are the biggest opportunities right now for making improvements?
As far as I am concerned, the challenges of industry standardisation and business alignment also represent the biggest opportunities. As soon as pharma is booked as PIL, every partner in the supply chain should know what is expected of them. And if this cannot be met, then pharma should not be allowed to act. This represents an opportunity for the industry to streamline and become more transparent.
How can the industry strengthen the airfreight process?
Communication is key to strengthen the airfreight process. I believe we should work together as an industry to identify what needs to be improved and how we can find solutions. Tailored business expectations would greatly assist the pharma airfreight process, such as thermal protection systems and services. Right now, we have many different solutions that could be applied, but there is still too much uncertainty surrounding the expectations of all the partners in the total supply chain.
What lessons have you learnt through your role at MSD?
I have learnt that collaboration along the pharma supply chain is crucial for linking transport services. For example, with thermal protection systems, logistic partners and shipping agreements. Focusing on just one element will never lead to a successful pharma supply chain so we have to start collaborating.
If you could have a different role, what would it be and why?
If I could choose a role, I would like to roll out IATA TCR as a guideline for the total pharma supply chain. From my point of view, identifying what needs to be improved should be the highest priority, then we can ensure the right techniques and solutions are available. It would also be nice if we could prioritise pharma above perishables along the supply chain. But of course, I am not entirely objective on that matter.