Challenges remain within the last mile in the delivery of air freight but innovations are having a positive impact, delegates heard today on the first day of the Cool Chain Association’s (CCA) 7th Pharma & Biosciences conference in Paris.
CCA chairman Stavros Evangelakakis, global product manager of Cargolux opened the event, emphasising the need for stakeholders to work together more to meet the growing demands of pharma customers when it comes to the last mile.
Due to inadequate last mile services in the air pharma supply chain, vaccines, other pharma products and medical supplies are often unable to reach their destination or have to be destroyed as arrive damaged.
The first speaker Radhika Batra (pictured below), founder and president of Every Infant Matters, an NGO that works to help disadvantaged children in India and also in Nigerian by running health and medical projects, said more needs to be done.
She called on stakeholders to collaborate to fix last mile delivery issues and told delegates of real cases in India where vaccines have been unable to reach their destination or cannot even be sent.
Batra said vaccines are reaching people but children are still dying and she had explained that 20 million children globally don’t receive even the most basic vaccines, 1.5 million die annually from vaccine preventable diseases, and one in five infants miss out on basic vaccines.
She said the main reason for these statistics was that the last mile connectivity is often missing and she asked “can the air freight industry provide the last link?”.
The last mile is missing Batra said due to inadequate infrastructure (poor roads), difficult geographies, and a lack of human links in the chain and education, which is all leading to vaccines being destroyed by heat or not even reaching their destination.
She believes industry stalwarts must find and promote ways to bridge the gaps in the last mile such as using drones, networking to find solutions, digital transformation, and by sharing data.
Indeed, data is the key to the future of the last mile in the view of fellow speaker Wolfgang Engel, managing partner sales, head of competence center logistics at DQS, who also called for open minds when it comes to the last mile.
“I think we should be more open minded about data. If it can save our lives then why not give it. In the future data will definitely be the key,” he said.
Jessie VanderVeen (pictured below), VP of marketing and communications of Controlant, a technology firm specialising in providing cool chain solutions, told delegates of how her company is working to help improve the last mile when it comes to healthcare.
One project, is partnering with Global Good, a company which developed, MetaFridge, with the goal of having the most robust vaccine fridge available for developing countries that can store vaccines safely where there is limited or no access to power.
The project is focused on remotely monitoring vaccines in real-time to reduce spoilage, and as part of the partnership, Controlant designed an integrated module that transmits data from the fridge to the Controlant cloud. It has led to around 500 fridges being placed out in the field of African being monitored.
VanderVeen also said it is providing a ‘data ocean’ that can be used for benchmarking.
This will be used to analyse supply chain performance against other companies and industry performance, lane performance performance of freight forwarders, airlines, transport companies, performance and availability of packaging solutions, shipping times and performance of airports, harbours and customs.
She explained that this opens up opportunities for improvement and an immediate return on investment (ROI) possibilities for new customers.
Fellow speaker Niels van Namen, global lead for healthcare at CEVA Logistics, said that great opportunities exist globally for last mile development. He said a “patient-centric” supply chain is what everyone is looking for”.
Despite all the innovations and improvements with the last mile of delivery there is a long way to go and it as pointed out by a delegate, and ideas being floated about like certification standards for the last mile might well come into force, but all this all costs money and requires stakeholders working together.