Life Sciences Supply Chain Challenges


Creating an efficient supply chain is a challenge across all industries. However, life sciences companies face additional challenges when it comes to getting their products to the end customer. 

Pharmaceuticals, biotech supplies, medical devices, and other life sciences products face greater restrictions than standard consumer products. They also can be very sensitive and need to be transported under certain conditions. 

As a 4PL organization, Unilog helps life science companies develop custom supply chain solutions. We work closely with clients to learn about their specific business needs and develop inventory management and shipping solutions specifically for vulnerable life sciences products. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the unique challenges that life sciences companies face when building out a supply chain. 

Temperature Management

One of the biggest challenges for life sciences companies is shipping products at an appropriate temperature. This is particularly important for medical products and fresh food products. There’s no room for error with temperature sensitive products – if they aren’t kept at an exact temperature range, they could spoil, cutting into your profits and damaging your reputation. This means that every part of the life science supply chain needs to be properly coordinated to avoid damaging storage mistakes. 

Accurate Tracking

While accurate supply chain tracking is important for companies in any industry, it is particularly important for those in the life sciences industry for many reasons. Because of temperature concerns and other storage specifications, companies need to know exactly where their products are at all times and what condition they are in. With accurate tracking and communication among supply chain partners, you can avoid confusion and address problems right away if they do arise. 

Changing Supply and Demand

Supply and demand for life sciences products has been rapidly changing over the past few years, making it hard for companies to plan ahead with their stock. For example, many life sciences companies developed COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. Demand for these products has been consistently fluctuating and is just now starting to reach a stable level. 

Additionally, lockdowns around the world at various points in the pandemic shut down manufacturing plants temporarily. This has resulted in shortages of certain products. Many life sciences companies rely on very specific products, so even a minor shortage could affect operations for months afterward. 

As supply and demand continues to fluctuate, life sciences companies will need to adjust their strategies in order to avoid delays. Since supply chain disruptions have become so common over the past several years, having a risk management strategy in place is crucial for long-term success. 

Regulatory Compliance

Pharmaceuticals and other life sciences products are very highly regulated, and regulations vary widely by location. This means that global life sciences companies will need to be aware of these regulations and plan their shipping strategies accordingly. For example, the FDA in the United States has strict cleaning and storage regulations for public health products, and they can choose to conduct inspections at any time. 

Many other countries have similar regulations for life sciences products. There are also regulations regarding electronic data storage and environmental impact to consider. On top of that, each country has their own taxation laws relating to commercial shipments. 

Because life sciences products are subject to so many regulations, it’s important for companies to develop an overarching compliance program. Compliance standards can change over time, so you’ll need to stay up-to-date on them and make changes to your supply chain accordingly. 

High Energy Costs

Because life science supplies typically need to be stored at certain temperatures, they often use higher volumes of energy than shipping dry goods. Not only does this drive shipping costs up, but it can also have a negative environmental impact. 

These high energy costs are a major challenge across the supply chain for life sciences companies. Right now, there aren’t many solutions to this problem, as these products have such specific storage requirements. Looking for other places within the supply chain to reduce costs is often the best solution. 

Geopolitical Issues

There are a variety of global issues that can affect the supply chain. Political and social unrest, health issues, and environmental issues can all delay or shut down production. This has been particularly challenging across the supply chain for many different industries, including life sciences companies. The COVID-19 pandemic, economic conditions, and current geopolitical conditions have all resulted in supply chain problems. This has encouraged many companies to rethink how they build their supply chain and opt for a more diverse range of suppliers. 

Supply Chain Solutions For Life Sciences Companies

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to these supply chain challenges for life sciences companies. Ultimately, you’ll need to determine what supply chain strategies make the most sense for your company and the products you’re shipping. However, there are some solutions you can put in place to make your supply chain more efficient. 

  • Work with a 4PL provider: 4PLs like Unilog provide overarching solutions for the entire supply chain. At Unilog, we help life sciences organizations find appropriate shipping carriers and warehousing solutions while maintaining compliance, avoiding product loss, and controlling costs. 
  • Use predictive technology throughout the supply chain: AI and other advanced technologies have productive applications across the supply chain. For example, predictive technology can assess supply and demand to help with inventory management. Switching from paper operations to digital tracking also results in more accurate data. 
  • Work with a diverse range of suppliers: One of the best ways to prevent delays is to work with a broad range of suppliers. Partnering with multiple suppliers in different areas of the world will ensure you can keep operations running regardless of geopolitical tensions or environmental issues. 
  • Plan for the worst: Although worst-case scenarios may never come to pass, it’s still important to be prepared. Risk management strategies should be in place across your entire supply chain. 

Life sciences companies face unique supply chain challenges that aren’t present in many others industries. If you’re in need of supply chain solutions for sensitive life sciences products, contact Unilog today to learn more about our 4PL services and technology. 

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