The Friday Report August 3, 2018

Quick wrap up of a few hot topic newsworthy stories in the supply chain logistics industry

Pharma Industry Needs a Technology Update

2018 has seen a push towards transforming the drug supply chain.  With the advent of new technologies, renewed focus has been brought to bear on ways to improve identification of counterfeit drugs in the supply chain.  Additional interest includes using predictive analytics to reduce healthcare fraud, waste and abuse as well as to identify and avoid potentially costly and dangerous supply chain disruptions.  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called for standardized documentation practices for the supply chain as one potential solution.  According to one industry expert, use of artificial intelligence and blockchain may be able to assist in automating, sorting and analyzing data, increasing visibility and transparency and enhancing supply chain security.

Currently the pharmaceutical supply chain lags behind on supply chain best practices and the adoption of new technologies.  This is partially because portions of the supply chain are unwilling to share necessary but sensitive data regarding patients, doctors and even company business plans because of competing incentives.  Because information is not shared, the industry lacks visibility on basic demand and inventory levels and movement data.  The lack of this information makes the use of artificial intelligence less useful.  Because pharma supply chain leaders lack the control over pharmacy supply chains, they are unable to truly synchronize supply chains from end-to-end.

Pharma Increases Use of Cold Chain Logistics & Innovative Technologies

With new attention being paid to new pharma resources including regenerative and gene therapies and the movement toward temperature-managed shipments, the overall sales volume of temperature-controlled pharmaceutical products has continued to grow at twice the overall rate of pharmaceutical products overall.  This trend is forecast to continue for the near term.  Because of the increase in temperature-controlled products, the use of cold chain logistics has increased from $13 billion in 2016 to over $18 billion by 2022.  According to the 2018 Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook, the year-over-year growth rate is approximately 8% for cold chain logistics as compared to about 2% for non-cold chain logistics.

Because of FDA regulations the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) and 21 CFR GMP and GDP requirements, companies are paying more attention to the value of intelligent, temperature-controlled materials used during transportation of pharma goods.  Reportedly, pharma companies tend to be more focused on enhanced, reusable packaging, real-time data monitoring  and advanced informatics systems used during transit.

With the increasing volume of cold chain-dependent drug therapies moving into clinical trials and approval for use by consumers as well as increased regulatory requirements for chain of custody and packaging, solution providers need to continue to innovate and gain widespread pharma industry acceptance.  Use of next generation packaging technologies, advanced package tracking and intelligence informatics systems and other new innovative technologies can help reduce damages and waste and lead to improved outcomes in cold chain logistics.

Walmart Tries Out Grocery Picking Robot for Online Order Fulfillment

With Walmart’s online grocery pick up program gaining popularity, the company has developed new alliances and shed its partnerships with Uber and Lyft.  New partners Postmates, Deliv and Doordash will be used to help meet the goal of providing delivery services in 100 markets by the end of 2018.  Another technology partner, Alert Innovation robot developed Alphabot, designed for Walmart for use in its Salem New Hampshire superstore.  Alphabot will be deployed in a 20,000 square foot extension that will be connected to the Walmart superstore.  This will also serve as the dedicated order retrieval area and include drive thru lanes for customers.

This will also serve as the dedicated order retrieval area and include drive thru lanes for customers.Alphabot will retrieve goods from storage and bring them to Walmart employees who will compile each order.  Excluding produce and other fresh goods, Alphabot will be capable of picking dry goods as well as refrigerated and frozen items.  Human Walmart staff members will retrieve the fresh goods.

Considered to be a pilot program, Alphabot has not yet been approved for widespread use.  The Salem New Hampshire store will be used to test Walmart’s latest technologies.  After being remodeled, this store will implement Walmart’s Pickup Tower for online orders as well as an automated shelf scanner which spots out-of-stock items, the FAST unloader, used to unload trucks and Walmart’s mobile point-of-sale and “Check Out With Me” systems.

About the Author:

Laura Olson

Director of Sales and Marketing, Datex

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