JAS Worldwide is pleased to announce the launch of its Pharmaceutical and Healthcare vertical. The new division is headed by David Bang, a pharmaceutical and healthcare logistics and supply chain expert with more than 20 years of experience. Recently, Shari Berg of The Write Reflection sat down with Bang to discuss the state of logistics in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.
The Write Reflection: Looking at COVID-19 vaccine distributions on the news and social media, now many of us at least got some appreciation of the critical role of logistics and supply chain for the pharma and healthcare industry. What is the state of the pharma and healthcare logistics industry now vs. pre-pandemic?
David Bang: Customers, logistics companies, pharmaceutical, and healthcare companies are all looking at this in the same way. Things are different now. There is no new topic that came to light because of COVID-19 except for the vaccine. The major topics our industry has been talking about just exploded – magnified – due to the additional strain of the pandemic. It's always been about regulatory compliance when moving pharma and healthcare products. The Drug Supply Chain Security Act requires the safe and secure transport of pharmaceuticals. Cost efficiency, digital transformation – those topics were already there – they just became magnified because of COVID-19.
Right now, we're in a very disruptive supply chain situation. People realize one glitch in the supply chain can disrupt the entire process. Logistics managers must now closely monitor for this and adjust quickly if there are any problems. They must plan well ahead of time now because of shortages of shipping containers. Before you had some options if you waited until the last minute to arrange transport for your freight. Doing that today means you risk not moving your shipment by the customer’s deadline.
Write Reflection: Where is the industry headed post-pandemic? What are the new demands, if any, of customers?
David Bang: I think it is going to be a "new normal." We will never go back to where exactly we were before Covid. The pharma and healthcare industry, with the logistics providers alongside them, must be a lot more collaborative than they were before. It's about survival. You need to be collaborative with all parties in the supply chain. Covid has helped us realize we are all connected. If one of us suffers, it affects all of us. It is no longer about how much it costs to move freight from Point A to Point B. The new normal is asking, “What is the level of the risk for that the price I'm willing to pay?” The level of risks, the level of assurances, must be weighed before deciding on the logistics. As a logistics company, JAS has focused on this issue to find workable solutions.
Write Reflection: Do customers inquire whether they can get shipping when they need it with all the port congestion and shipping container shortages?
David Bang: Before, when shipping a container from Asia or China to the USA, it cost us $1,500. Now, it's more like $20,000 and that might not even guarantee us space. I think we learned the lessons. Now, the customer is going to tell us what they are willing to pay and will ask us what that will get them. It is no longer about cost alone, but ultimately the assurance of supply with the levels of security and other supply chain integrity factors.
Write Reflection: How is JAS planning to meet the increase in demand?
David Bang: There are no perfect preparations for the future because nobody knows the future. We believe at JAS in equipping and empowering our employees to take care of client needs. Our customers appreciate a personal touch. Our employees need to combine that with data-powered and intelligent solutions to meet this new demand. A couple of hundred JAS employees just completed a pharma and healthcare training program and now will use a digital platform that provides answers to client questions on a whole different level. Simple questions like ‘where is my shipment now, in what condition, is everything going OK and if not, are you doing something about it?’ Covid intensified things, and customers demand faster, real-time data to answer those simple questions. Our employees are being trained and equipped to handle those questions and provide answers in real-time.
Write Reflection: How does workforce development factor into preparing your employees for this new normal?
David Bang: Building our employees' knowledge and empathy toward our customers will help our customers to navigate this very challenging time. Ongoing workforce development is a big part of it. We truly believe that people make the difference in the end, and our investment and technology advancement are centered around people.
Write Reflection: How will JAS differentiate itself from other logistics companies?
David Bang: Our vision is to become the best quality logistics provider for the pharma and healthcare industry with accuracy, timeliness, and true insight. An advantage for JAS is it already completed a major TMS overhaul five years ago and is positioned to provide real-time answers to customers throughout the shipping process. We have a tremendous amount of support in place. With our purposeful investment in technology, in our people for pharma and healthcare customers – we are uniquely in a better position than some other logistics companies that are just now starting this process or have not endured multiple years of improvement like JAS had already gone through.
Write Reflection: What are the timelines and key investment areas of JAS’ pharma and healthcare vertical development?
David Bang: From a timeline perspective, multi-millions of investments for state-of-the-art pharma and healthcare facilities already are on their way. We have 26 strategically placed GDP (Good Distribution Practice) certified locations already in place. By Q4 of this year, they will be fully ready to serve our clients with different temperature arrangements and other specifications to meet pharma and healthcare needs.
Our customers also will experience some of our new digital solutions starting as early as November. They can monitor their shipments in real-time with more intelligence. From a people perspective, we are creating an exciting message in the industry. We have been fortunate to attract some of the best-of-the-best in the logistics talent pool. That will strengthen our position and service capabilities all around the world.
Write Reflection: How much time and investment does it take to find the best logistics talent?
David Bang: It is not a mechanical process. It is a human-to-human buy. It takes quite a bit of energy. My executive team and I spend hours and hours in the interview process and searching through the pool of candidates. It can take up to six months or beyond to get through the process from a talent perspective. We're not just looking for skills. We're looking for the soft-skills side of it and people with a passion for the pharma and healthcare industry. We want to be the best quality logistics provider for pharma and healthcare, and we want people who share that passion.
Write Reflection: You mentioned the importance of soft skills. Which soft skills are required for JAS team members in the pharma and healthcare vertical?
David Bang: It's consultative selling. It's about value. If a customer tells you one thing, you should be able to ask a couple of other questions, so you go deeper. It's all about patients at the end of the supply chain. You never know what these products will do. It might be the discovery of a cancer drug. Maybe it's as simple as a vaccine, or raw materials that go into devices. We want those soft skills in our people to try to serve the customers from the beginning to the end of the logistics process.
Write Reflection: Tell us about the upcoming webinar and how you plan to use it to build out the new vertical.
David Bang: We're super excited about this upcoming webinar on September 28. It's titled "Navigating the pharma and healthcare supply chain in these unprecedented times." We would like the audience and the panelists to head on with the current distruptions in an objective and pragmatic manner. The audience will get the following three things out of the webinar:
Write Reflection: How is the tight warehousing situation playing into your plans?
David Bang: We know that some locations require us to work with a third-party warehousing company. Mega-hubs and locations – Chicago, Frankfurt, Singapore, Shanghai, etc. – literally people are fighting for the space because e-commerce is blooming. It can be difficult to find places suited to the temperature and other safe storage requirements for pharma and healthcare. That is why we see the value in the facilities we will invest either directly or in partnership and are ready to serve our customers in these geographical locations. We could add another five or 10 locations to the 26 already in place in emerging markets, but we will only expand with a purpose.