Pharma Logistics Masterclass for Pharma Industry and Academics held in Antwerp, Belgium Concluded with Great Success

Between 7 to 11 September 2021, 75 business executives and academics gathered in the historic building of the University of Antwerp (physically and virtually) for a five-day intensive Masterclass on pharma supply chain.

A joint initiative by Pharma.Aero, University of Antwerp and the Metrans Transportation Consortium, the Pharma Logistics Masterclass consisted of a series of presentations, debates, practical workshops and site visits, highlighting and addressing  current challenges of pharma logistics and supply chains.

Professor Dr. Roel Gevaers, Co-chair of the Masterclass commented: “The inaugural Pharma Logistics Masterclass covered several current critical aspects of pharma logistics. It created an excellent opportunity for seasoned business professionals to gain more in-depth knowledge and for academics to obtain advanced insights into how pharma supply chains are organized in practice.”

Frank Van Gelder, Co-chair of the Masterclass and Secretary-General of Pharma.Aero added: “The unique knowledge-sharing and networking between business professionals and academics during the Masterclass had built a bridge between the two communities in the pharma logistics area. From the industry’s perspectives, the participants learned what and how scientific methods could be applied to optimise logistics processes for the pharma and life sciences sector. The participants also had an insightful crash course on vaccinology and the importance of just-in-time and reliable supply chains, from raw materials to the final products delivery.”  

The Masterclass concluded with nine strategic takeaways:

  1. The pharma logistics market will continue to grow horizontally and vertically at an accelerated pace. Not only would the market expands alongside with population and disposable income, but also broadens with the next generation pharma such as the Advanced Therapy Medicial Product (ATMP).
  2. PIL becomes VAL! Pharma goods are increasingly becoming valuable, which require special security handling protocols, in addition to full trace-and-track capabilities. The supply chain requirements of COVID-19 vaccines and an increasing number of high-value pharmaceuticals in the market could already attest to this.
  3. The pharma supply chain needs to become more sustainable. The pharma industry is paying more attention to sustainability throughout the supply chain, giving pressure to  the logistics industry to make more efforts to cater for this demand.
  4. Air vs ocean freight. While pharma traditionally has a larger share of air transport in terms of value, it was observed that the maritime industry is also stepping up their offerings for the pharma industry.
  5. Effectiveness is often more important than efficiency. Supply chains often focus on cost efficiency. However, reliability, transparency, sustainability and security are also critical parameters for pharma logistics.
  6. Changes in business models (B2B to B2B2C) create last-mile challenges. Pharma distribution models are changing rapidly with e-commerce distribution platforms disrupting the classic distribution model. Pharma logistics companies need to adapt to this fast-evolving environment.
  7. COVID-19 is not the last disruptive event. While COVID-19 presents pronounced logistics challenges, the Masterclass revealed the importance of collaboration and building resilience in the pharma supply chain. The lessons learned during this period should be integrated into future supply chains for better preparedness for other major events in the following decades.
  8. Big Data and new technologies will make significant inroads into Supply Chain Management. Artificial intelligence and advanced analytics would steer future decision-making in a blink of an eye.  Such applications will become integral in the future.
  9. Lastly, there is a need for increased coordination and collaboration between all players in the supply chain. Participants of the Masterclass unanimously concluded that there is a need for enhanced collaboration and exchange of information to upgrade current supply chain to the next level.

The above key insights generated from the Masterclass demonstrated the need for enhanced and continued knowledge-sharing between academics and the industry. Following the success of the first Pharma Logistics Masterclass, the organizing committee has decided to hold a second edition from 5-9 September 2022. The key transversal themes of the second edition will be based on the main issues raised at the first Masterclass: Sustainability, Big Data, Crisis management and Disruptive Technologies.

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