Global Trade magazine sat down with FedEx Supply Chain CEO Craig Simon at the 2015 LogiMed conference in San Diego, where Simon led a session titled “Changing Medical Device Logistics Models in Emerging Markets.” Below is an excerpt from that conversation.
Global Trade: How have you seen the medical supply chain evolve?
Craig Simon: It’s still evolving and lags behind other industries. You look at what the automotive industry initiated with just-in-time logistics and what high tech has gone through—the whole healthcare side of logistics is lagging behind. The reason is that the criticality of what these [medical] devices do for patients far exceeds any other industry. There hasn’t been a focus on the bottom line, but that’s changing. Now there’s been a tremendous focus on cost, while not taking away from patient care.
What kind of technological advances have you seen that have made the medical supply chain more efficient?
When technologies are applied, particularly in the healthcare industry, it’s focused around visibility of the inventory. A number of technologies such as RFID have come into play, particularly for devices and tools associated with implantable devices that have a return cycle to them.
What advancements have you seen with temperature-controlled shipments?
The advancements have come for inventory in transit. Keeping a product at the right temperature at a hospital or clinic has always been pretty easy. But when that product moves from one stocking location to another, it’s been difficult to keep it at the right temperature. A new technology that FedEx has come out with is called SenseAware. It’s a fairly small device that will ship with any of these [medical] devices inside the package or outside the package; it will constantly monitor and transmit the atmospheric conditions inside that box. It uses GPS and cellular to let you know where the product is at all times.
What countries should medical device shippers be aware of that might offer unique challenges with regulations?
Can I say all? It’s really true. Every country has its own regulations. In the U.S., every state has its own set of regulations for medical devices. And that’s true in other countries as well. In China, for example, they have their own equivalent of the FDA for China, and then Shanghai has its own equivalent just for Shanghai. And you have to meet the requirements for all of that.
Over time there will be more similarities across regulatory bodies. They’ll take a look at what’s happening in the U.S. and Europe, and as those regulations evolve, I think we’ll see other countries follow suit.
In my lifetime there won’t be just one regulatory body, but I do think that states within countries will start to see communization of regulatory requirements.
SAY WHAT? Sounding off on the passage of Trade Promotion Authority
“When the inexcusable and anti-democratic veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP is finally lifted and the American people see what is actually in the agreement, they are going to force their representatives in Washington to vote that deal down.” – Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen
“We got assurances that U.S.T.R. and the president will be negotiating within the parameters defined by Congress. And if those parameters are somehow or in some way violated during the negotiations, if we get a product that’s not adhering to the T.P.A. agreement, then we have switches where we can cut it off.” – Republican Representative Dave Reichert, senior member of the Ways and Means Committee
“Our leaders in Washington proved they could tune out the populists and demagogues of the left and the right and take action on an important measure to put our economy back on track.” – Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce