Collaboration the key to a better supply chain

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Investments in facilities, staff training, dollies and other areas  to meet the demand of the cool chain are certainly one of the main trends in the supply chain, as businesses look to take advantage of the opportunities on offer, especially in pharmaceuticals and healthcare.

The 4th Cool Chain Association (CCA) Pharma & Bioscience Conference takes place from 19-20 September in Dubai and will cover a range of issues and key areas of the sector.

CCA chairman, Sebastiaan Scholte (pictured), who is also chief executive officer of Jan de Rijk Logistics, says a key aspect of this year’s event will be hearing the voice of shippers on how air cargo performs as a supply chain in the cool chain sector.

He explains that hopefully the conference will also hear from shippers that the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) is the “standard they trust”.

Scholte notes the CCA has received positive feedback from the shippers’ community about CEIV and it has created awareness, while it is becoming more and more a standard being adapted in the airfreight supply chain, although he notes a discussion has started whether GDP or CEIV is the right certificate.

The CCA event will have a high focus on the Middle East and Scholte says given the high temperatures in the region, the event will hear from airlines like Emirates how they manage the cool air cargo supply chain, while the latest sector trends will also be on the agenda.

Cool chain is such a huge sector for freight and there is a constant multi-modal battle for cool chain cargo with sea freight, but Scholte says there will always be a need for air cargo for certain products, especially if they are time critical.

He says: “The cool chain with sea freight is maintained better than with air freight because with sea freight all is transported on active cool containers whereas with airfreight loose products need to be cooled in different transport modes (aircraft, dollies, trucks etc). The tarmac remains the weak link. Luckily you see more refrigerated dollies at some airports.”

Scholte says in his role at Jan de Rijk Logistics, which was one of the first firms to implement CEIV, he is definitely seeing increasing amounts of cool chain cargo being transported.

He notes: “This is an increasing trend in Europe where governments look at more efficiency in the home care of an increasing aging population. More patients are being treated at home and therefore the logistics around this is becoming more important.”

Investment is high in air cargo to meet changing regulations and demands for cool chain cargo. More and more handling facilities are being upgraded, but highly trained staff are also key to meeting complex regulations in the sector.

Scholte says: “There is more investment in training of people. We always talk about new technology, but at the end it is the people who make the difference.

“Many airlines now have a dedicated team for pharma and/or cool chain. This was not the case 10 years ago.”

More collaboration in the supply chain it seems is what many in the industry are calling for and Scholte agrees, but he says on the positive side, initiatives like CEIV, and Cargo iQ force more collaboration, adding: “There is however still a lot of room for further improvement. We could share more information and be more pro-active in the air cargo supply chain.”

He is very upbeat about the potential of air cargo to meet the needs of the cool chain sector in future years, explaining: “I think that we are a conservative industry where change and innovation is slow. This is also in part due to the fact that regulation (customs, safety, traffic rights etc) sometimes is hindering innovation.

“But there are stakeholders who do invest but since tarmac is always an issue we like to see more ramp handling, GHA and customs working together for this product as it is simply special.”

In Scholte’s view, the biggest cool chain challenge is in having a complete transparent efficient cool chain, but the tarmac remains the “weak link” and needs to be focus of future efforts to improve standards and efficiency in the supply chain.