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10 Questions to Ask Before You Choose a Pharmaceutical 3PL Company

Pharmaceutical products pose unique challenges to third-party logistics companies.

And rightly so!

The pharmaceutical supply chain is tricky, with higher stakes than any other industry.

Not only does pharmaceutical supply chain distribution require compatibility with health and safety guidelines, but it also needs the right storage equipment and temperature tracking to ensure smooth delivery.

It’s important to ensure that the provider you work with is equipped with the right experience and expertise to maintain the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain. To help guide you in the right direction, we’re sharing ten questions you should ask a provider before you work with them.

1. What is Your History and Portfolio in the Pharmaceutical Industry?

The provider's experience working with pharmaceutical companies reflects their knowledge and expertise in handling products that require special storage and temperature conditions.

Always look for relevant names in their portfolio. Check out their reviews within the industry to gauge if they’re capable of handling the unique challenges that arise during pharmaceutical logistics.

2. What Are Your Services Specific to the Pharmaceutical Industry?

Third-party logistics companies handle some or all aspects of logistics operations, which may or may not include the storage of products.

It’s important to ask a provider what services they provide specifically to pharmaceutical companies so you can plan and manage all aspects of moving and storing goods from manufacturers and distributors to the end customer (last mile).

3. What Are Your Areas of Expertise?

Like any other business, 3PL providers are stronger in some areas than others. Some are a great choice for D2C retail businesses, while some are better suited for companies that ship prescription drugs.

When you start narrowing down your options, ask the provider about their areas of expertise and what type of businesses are their ideal customers. This ties back into question number one, helping you gauge how much experience they have in the industry.

4. What Are Your Competitive Advantages Over Other 3PL Providers?

Due to a boom in ecommerce businesses and more companies opting out of direct distribution models, third-party logistics providers have become a dime a dozen. It's important to know how they're competing with each other in the same industry. Some providers have a better geographical reach, some have better vehicles, and others have competitive pricing.

When narrowing down your options, it's always a great idea to ask providers about their competitive advantage. For example, a provider that competes on prices will use methods that save them some bucks, which may sound good but not be a good sign for your products' safety.

5. What is Your Pricing Structure?

Transparent pricing is a green flag during your search for 3pl providers. Ask them about their pricing structure and how it changes as demand and supply fluctuate. Similarly, consider whether they make it easy to scale service up and down as needed.

A well-structured pricing model (and flexibility!) will help you determine whether you can work with the same provider ten years from today without going through this process again.

6. What is Your Approach to Customer Service and Reverse Logistics?

Customer service may seem like a very basic service that comes with any contract, but when it comes to pharmaceutical 3pl, customer service isn’t just about a successful delivery experience — it’s about managing the entire delivery process with zero room for error.

Once compromised, medical products and specialty drugs can’t be fixed and shouldn't be delivered to the customer. Third-party logistics companies should have very clear SOPs for such situations, including any occurrence of reverse logistics where a customer doesn't want the product anymore for any reason.

7. What Are Your Safety and Security Procedures for Medicinal Products?

Beyond internal processes, ask your short-listed third-party logistic companies about their verification of regulations and compliance with government agencies such as the Public Health Agency.

Always cross-check their safety and security protocols to ensure that the provider complies with all necessary regulations.

8. How Do You Manage Storage and Maintain Temperature Integrity?

Storing products that require refrigeration is one of the most critical aspects of pharmaceutical distribution. Ask the 3PL service provider if they maintain automated logs on the temperature at which the products are stored and shipped.

As a company, these detailed logs should be available to you to monitor the integrity of your products. It’s also wise to find out how they monitor the temperatures while in transit and if you get access to those logs as well.

Also, inquire about their plan B if the heating or cooling system fails.

9. What Are Your Goals for Sustainability?

An average diesel delivery truck emits 18.7 tons of carbon dioxide annually, and this is hurting the planet we live in. Ask your provider if they’ve made any commitments or investments to reduce their global carbon footprint.

Many customers care about the environment. If you associate yourself with a provider that doesn’t have sustainability on their radar, it leaves an ugly impression on your customer that sees you as part of that provider.

10. How Do You Manage Warehousing, Packaging, and Inventory?

As for warehousing, look for providers that have well-maintained warehouses with all the right equipment in place.

Medicinal products sometimes require specific packaging to protect the product from the external environment and bacteria. Ensure the provider is aware of the different packing principles in the pharmaceutical industry.

Last but not least, their inventory management system should be robust and capable of handling extreme demand with fast supply.

Ready to be in Great Hands?

Before making a final decision, be sure to ask providers enough questions and discuss the responses with the appropriate stakeholders. Considering how difficult the logistics of pharmaceutical products can be, it's much better to be safe than sorry.

Ziing works with pharmaceutical companies and offers a full chain of custody with detailed logs of storage temperature, humidity, and location at all stages of the supply chain. Work with us to outsource your routing, handling, and dispatching of pharmaceutical goods.

Contact us to get started.

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