The latest results of Pharma.Aero’s air logistics data sharing initiative promise significant benefits for pharma shippers – and the wider air freight and logistics sectors, reports Will Waters
Ambitious pharma air logistics digitalisation and collaboration initiative Pharma.Aero is close to completing the second phase of its plan to create a data-sharing solution to improve visibility and transparency in the pharma supply chain.
The expected launch of a commercialisation phase promises to deliver significant benefits for pharma shippers – and lessons on data sharing and collaboration for the wider air freight and logistics sectors – following successful pilot trials using shared live data from participants across the air logistics chain, including pharma shipper, forwarder, airline, and airport members of the grouping.
Pharma.Aero was formed in late 2016 by Brussels Airport and Miami International Airport, respectively the first and second IATA designated CEIV Pharma hub airports in the world, to improve pharma handling and quality in the air cargo sector worldwide – with an emphasis on the CEIV certification programme – by sharing expertise, data, best practice, and jointly working on innovative initiatives.
The association’s so-called ‘Digi project’ – ‘Certification of Pharmaceuticals Air Trade Lanes through Digitisation’ – was launched in September 2017. Phase 1 – or Digi 1.0 – “set out to solve one big pain point in the industry: to give more visibility and transparency to the pharma supply chain”, explains Jaisey Yip, vice chairman of Pharma.Aero and associate general manager for cargo and logistics and air hub innovation at Changi Airport Group.
“We were trying to get collaboration among the different stakeholders, to get each of them to share data onto a common IT platform. And when the data was all overlaid together, to get good transparency of shipments.”
A successful proof of concept demonstrated that data from different systems and in different formats can be ingested and displayed on a dashboard to enhance visibility throughout the supply chain.
The organisation also completed its second key project, the ‘CEIV Validation Project by the Shippers’, to provide feedback from pharma shippers on the CEIV programme and improve its standing, recognition and uptake among shippers – feedback that IATA has been integrating into the CEIV pharma methodology.
Digi 2.0 phase
“Last year, we kicked off Digi 2.0, the continuation of 1.0, this time using live data,” says Yip. “We have a prototype lane today, Brussels-Singapore-Sydney. The prototype project includes the two airports – Singapore Changi Airport as well as Brussels Airport – the airline is Singapore Airlines, the forwarder is DHL Global Forwarding (DGF), and the shipper is Pfizer. We have already run a number of live shipments, where the different stakeholders share different data on a common IT platform including flight status, data from cool dollies, data from the cool chain facilities.”
The collaboration takes place through a common IT provider, Nallian, with the data-sharing application tool – Global Pharma Tracker, or GPT – created from the analysis of the Digi 1.0 project, explains Pharma.Aero secretary general Frank Van Gelder.
By the end of June, it had presented the pilot results to the pilot members, and then to all of the members of Pharma.Aero in June, to get their feedback. The next stage involves finishing the technical paper and the white paper, and then external communication – probably in the third quarter, says Yip, with Pharma.Aero looking to close off Digi 2.0 by early autumn.
“We will continue to do and monitor some more live shipments, but we have reached the objective to prove that this can be done and this concept is ‘commercialisable’,” Yip says.
As part of the process, Pharma.Aero’s user board, which consists of other members of Pharma.Aero and other shippers, has been providing input on the value that they see, “and how going forward they can harvest the benefits”, Yip explains, with the organisation this collating all this feedback.
But even ahead of the completion of that, the signs are positive that the concept is commercialisable.
Nathan de Valck, Pharma.Aero chairman and cargo and product development manager at Brussels Airport, comments: “I think we consider we’ve proven the technology. We have identified the challenges, and come up with answers to overcome those challenges – like data ownership, and the value proposition. And the next phase will be about actually bringing it to be a commercially viable project.
“What we have today is a concept that is validated, but it is not a product or service yet. The aim of the next phase, which we intend to launch, is building a viable live commercial service, together with an IT partner.”
Yip stresses that Pharma.Aero was set up to serve the overall pharma industry, not only its members, so the next phase “is to give greater transparency and visibility for global pharma shippers, even beyond our members”.
Frank Van Gelder, secretary general of Pharma.Aero, highlights the challenge and the achievement already of “fostering collaboration to make a project like this possible. It is a lot of effort to create the momentum, but also to create the mindset, to get all the noses in the same direction. To go from theoretical idea to a proof of concept, a lot of human resources are required to bring people together and align them.”
De Valck agrees: “Everybody talks about data sharing and cooperation, and everybody is convinced that this is the next big thing, potentially of innovation, but you see very little actual projects and collaboration efforts. It’s very difficult to bring it together. I think that is the real value of this project, that Pharma.Aero brings the table – the fact that we took on the challenge: instead of talking about it, we have built it and proven it can be done.”
De Valck believes there will be lessons from this project for the wider air freight sector and logistics industry, noting: “Typically, when we finish a project, we finish two reports: one is a technical report, a very detailed report, made available to all the members, outlining all the details of the project – the lessons learned, but also technical aspects, legal aspects, governance, commercial model, business model, that kind of thing. And then the second report that we make, which will be made available to the wider public, is the lessons learned without all the technical details.
“We have already published two white papers – one on CEIV validation, and one on Digi 1.0, and in the coming months we will publish one on the Digi 2.0 project – all the lessons learned and best practices that others can use when they also set up a collaboration like this on data sharing. And if people want to have access to the full detail and participate in the projects, they are welcome to become members – that’s what the organisation is about.”
De Valck says he is not aware of any parallel developments in other parts of logistics. “On the ocean freight, there are some individual company initiatives for tracking, but there are no industrywide initiatives, as we understand it,” he notes. “I don’t know too many other examples.”
Aligned with One Record
But the project is aligned with other air freight industry initiatives, such as IATA’s One Record. “We have an MoU with IATA,” De Valck highlights.
“IATA is a standard-setting organisation, so they are never going to build a tool itself. They will set the standards which can be used to build platforms. So, we’re talking with them, and will make sure that the solution that we suggest for the industry will be in line with the One Record philosophy.”
Van Gelder stresses that Pharma.Aero ultimately has multimodal aims, to meet the needs of pharma shippers that are using all modes of transport. “We want to be as complete as possible for the entire supply chain – all the players from the producer side to the consumers,” he notes. “IATA is airline focused, an air industry focus, but there are other players in the entire supply chain that are very important.”
Yip adds: “Pharma.Aero is multidisciplinary, involving the entire supply chain, from shippers, forwarders, technology companies, airlines and airports, and also cargo handlers. It doesn’t preclude us to look into multimodal activity with our Global Pharma Tracker project. In the pilot, we’re looking at door-to-door, so it starts from the shipper, Pfizer, and sharing certain datasets that kicks off the shipment tracking.
“It starts as a house air waybill, and then will convert that into a master air waybill eventually. But it doesn’t prevent us from looking in the future at multimodal, for example sea-air shipments.”
De Valck highlights the need to include the warehouse and road connectivity to the airport, as well as the flight stage, noting: “It is really the multimodal aspect. Pharma.Aero exists to guide our industry and serve the shipper in a better way. So, we listen to what the shipper expects and tells us to do, and they’re telling us: door to door.
Yip adds: “So, right now, the data-sharing element is all the way from the manufacturer, Pfizer, and it ends with the consignee,” with all of the participants contributing data from the parts of the shipment journey they are responsible for, from origin to destination.
With Pharma.Aero on track to complete Digi 2.0 this year, including the analysis, De Valck notes: “We are already exploring the possibilities to launch a third phase, the full commercialisation. Nothing has been decided yet; it takes some time, especially for the shippers, to decide what is the value. Do we want to step in now or at a later stage? Those discussions with the shippers that are members of Pharma.Aero are ongoing at this point.”
That next phase means gradually launching further lanes and tracking shipments on those lanes. “You cannot launch this type of data-sharing project with a big bang for the whole world,” explains De Valck.
“It will be step-by-step as well. We will start with a couple of pilot lanes, and it will be the shipper that will decide which lanes and which shipments and which routes will be identified for this next step.”
Trevor Caswell, cargo account manager for Edmonton Airport and Pharma.Aero’s newest director, says some of the outcomes of the project will develop from the discussions with the different shippers, “because every shipper is going have a different angle and what they see from the different reports. Some of the next steps will be an evolution from the lessons learned – the feedback we receive from shippers.”
Van Gelder says one of the strengths of Pharma.Aero is “its flexibility: based on the analytics that we do, phase 3 can go in this direction or that direction”.
De Valck says: “Shippers appreciate that. And the group is growing; that’s the proof that it is a success.”
Three main benefits
He says there are three main benefits – or “value drivers” – shippers are seeing.
“The biggest value that GPT is bringing is visibility of the shipment to each of the stakeholders in the supply chain, and this ability to offer real-time monitoring and visibility. With that in place, a lot of preventive measures can be undertaken. So, if through the tracking you can see that the temperature is going a bit out of line, the system can automatically notify whichever custodian the shipment is with to take corrective and preventative actions. And over time, with the data collected, it will also enable shippers and different parts of the supply chain to do some predictive analytics that will also help them with lane assessments and risk assessments.”
These lane assessments enable them to choose one lane over another, or identify that a certain lane often has a certain kind of challenge, and therefore to implement some measures to protect the shipment.
Yip notes: “It gives more transparency of the lanes and of the robustness of the lanes, and if the lane is critical to the pharma shipper, in overcoming some of the challenges – for example, using different kinds of packaging, and also maybe working differently with the particular stakeholders on this lane.”
Van Gelder says: “And going into personalised medical care today, with values that will be going up and up, it becomes extremely important to have that information before they send a pallet of (products worth) $6 million.”
The predictive data generated may even lead shippers to realise “that the type of packaging they were using now seems not to be necessary. So it can go in both directions,” he adds.
Cargo iQ milestones
While Pharma.Aero aims to provide innovative leading solutions for pharma shippers, this is best achieved by aligning with and using existing air freight quality improvement initiatives such as Cargo iQ.
“We use the standard Cargo iQ milestones in the model,” De Valck explains. “They are the different process steps that are used, and the freight status update messages that are sent by airlines, they define the milestones in the data-sharing mapping of the lane. So, we have integrated that into the system.”
But the data elements provided by the participants of Pharma.Aero have “provide a higher level of granularity of the tracking”.
Nevertheless, the two are very separate initiatives. “Cargo iQ defines the standard milestones, and standardises our industry there, and does some KPI reporting, which is fine,” Van Gelder notes. “We use that standard mapping of a lane and other different milestones as steps, to add additional layers on top of that – like temperature, like quality reports, like excursions – any type of extra data elements on top of the freight status update messages.
“It is a multi-layered data source platform.” And he says Pharma.Aero goes beyond the current bounds of Cargo iQ, which he says “is a certain type of data in a box. In this project, we also go to the partner shipper and to the final customer as well. So, it is boxes of data that we layer over each other, and getting then a total data view.”
Beyond air waybill level
De Valck says Pharma.Aero also goes beyond air waybill level or even a piece level, noting: “It is even a level down. We have the master air waybill – the consol usually, when it is handled by the cargo handler and the airline; the forwarder typically works at the house air waybill level; and the shipper works with a level down, a picking list. All those levels can be used in the data platform.”
He is convinced what Pharma.Aero is creating will ultimately also be applicable to non-temperature-controlled shipments. “I think what we are building now is a data-sharing platform for the most sensitive type of shipment that we transport: time and temperature-sensitive shipment. It can be used for any type of shipment. If you can handle the most sensitive ones, you can also share data on general cargo shipments, absolutely.”
Caswell notes: “There are lots of transferable skill sets that the programme will produce reports on, so others can benefit from these findings.
De Valck adds: “It sounds naïve, perhaps, but, we’re not doing business development, but industry development.”
It makes sense that such an initiative has come from this most sensitive cargo vertical, where there is the motivation among shippers to invest their time and data in developing the project.
Caswell adds: “The opportunity to do it is incredible.”
Yip stresses that the GPT application “is just one of our Hallmark projects. There are also two other ongoing projects we’re working on: one is on cargo security, and the second is on pharma-certified trade corridors.” Hong Kong International Airport and Brussels Airport began piloting the airport-to-airport (A2A) pharma corridor initiative at the start of this year, in collaboration with Cathay Pacific, Pharma.Aero, and pharmaceuticals companies MSD and Pfizer. The aim is to subsequently expand the initiative to other Pharma.Aero member airports to form a network of A2A pharma corridors.
Yip continues: “At the same time, Pharma.Aero continues to receive very strong interest from the industry.” The organisation now has more than 25 members, including major pharma shippers Pfizer, MSD, and Johnson & Johnson.
“We will also be announcing our fourth pharma shipper soon,” says Yip. “And we are also close to signing off with other major airports, airlines and logistics partners. So, it’s a very exciting time for us.”
Caswell adds: “There is also some very great interest from bio-pharma companies in Canada and the US.”
Van Gelder notes: “What’s interesting to me is that the members that join us now are actively approaching us. So, what we get is highly motivated industry partners that really want to improve the industry. It’s really an exciting group of people and members.”