New Articles




When we think of the “future” in terms of the global supply chain, advanced technology and new forms of disruption are usually among the things international shippers are most concerned about. With 2021 at its end, the “future” is right around the corner. Meaning, what supply chain players do now (and what has been done thus far) will inevitably impact 2022 and beyond, and the more one understands this market’s evolving patterns, the more successful they will be in managing what is to come. 

Throughout the past year, the air freight market has seen various shifts, particularly with global capacity constraints, remnants from pandemic-driven disruptions, and an overall increase in demand. To fully understand the future of air freight, we must look at the big picture. To do this, BDP International’s VP of Global Airfreight, Patrick Olyhoeck, shares what global shippers can do to navigate 2022. 

The first shift is perspective. 

“Industry players can be more proactive by learning to fully understand industry challenges from a customer’s perspective to help them collaboratively overcome challenges,” Olyhoeck says. “The industry is impacted by factors including COVID-19 recoveries… and fundamentally, proactivity can only come from understanding key market challenges, thinking forward and engaging across stakeholders to find future solutions.”

He shares the following shifts are among the most significant currently being felt across the market:

-Impacts on capacity due to lower passenger numbers

-Impacts from the re-balancing of trade relations

-Impacts from the knock-on effect of capacity needs from ocean to air 

-National level challenges including HGV drivers in the UK impacting final the distribution of air cargo

Despite these shifts, in addition to the ones not yet seen or felt by the market, it is quite clear that some challenges are here to stay–pandemic or no pandemic.

“The basics of the market did not change,” Olyhoeck says. “Compare it with a soccer game, two decades ago. The speed of today’s game is enormous with real athletes on the pitch but still, you need to score to win the game–this is equal to our industry. Although regulations and customer needs are changing, we still move air cargo from A to B. The nature of air cargo remains focused on speed and safety to justify the choice.”

In addition to the evergreen nature of regulations and customer needs, Olyhoeck stated that global capacity constraints are expected to be felt for at least another season, and the key to managing this can be found in verticalization strategies. Limiting transport methods not only hurts your business but can be felt by your customer base as well. Maintaining reliable, transparent customer relationships is more critical now than ever before to remain competitive.

“Verticalization is the way to move forward where expertise and experience meet,” Olyhoeck says. “Digitalization will play a significant role. It is necessary to control your capacity to meet your customer expectations throughout the supply chain and therefore not limited to the airport-to-airport move only. From a company view, we need to stay resilient, embrace technology and keep pace with innovations in close relations with our customers.”

Streamlining information with the help of technology is a considerable factor that separates the good from the great. We live in a world where having the latest technology no longer cuts it. A shipper’s competitive advantage is not found in the kind of technology used for customer needs but more of what data is provided through technology to better understand, predict and manage customer needs. 

“We need not only to embrace technology but also accelerate the exchange of data as the impact is significant,” Olyhoeck adds. “Currently, too many stakeholders operate different systems with diverse needs. The use of digital pricing and booking platforms will help to increase efficiency and improve turnaround time, and it does get the attention from the shipper playing field to serve them with their best interest in mind.”

Collaboration is key and gathering the right data will further streamline processes to success. BDP manages its customer needs through the utilization of technology platforms that provide relevant, timely, and critical information. Combining the best of both technical capabilities and data, customers can rely on this approach to share the information needed to overcome market shifts. 

“BDP technology forms a fundamental part of how we manage complex, high care, dynamic supply-chains through both normal and abnormal market conditions,” Olyhoeck says. “We invest in platforms to provide insight into data integration and aggregation, platforms which support communication and exception management, and platforms that automate and simplify processes to help manage complexity and streamline our communications with customers. Our customers and partners are kept informed every step of the way in critical journeys.”

Even more significant is the need for more attention to budgeting and forecasting in the air cargo sector. According to Statista, 2021 will end with an expected 63.1 million tons of freight carried globally.

“Unfortunately, forecasting is underexposed,” Olyhoeck shares. “As in various industries, the budget and forecast for shipping pure air cargo is zero, but shippers still end up shipping millions of kilograms by air each year.” 

So, is there such a thing as a formula shippers can rely on for the future of the industry? Simply put, yes. But without key components of communication, technology and data, customer relationships and operations are projected for complications. 

“Energized teams supported by the latest technologies plugged in and managing global networks is not new to the industry,” Olyhoeck notes. “The chaos brought on from the pandemic, within the ocean markets impacting air, shows that having teams that can react, adapt, collaborate and solve using insight and intellect many times outstrips the technical component of competition.”

Simply put, modern market relationships and collaborations cannot be compromised. As Bob Hooey once said, “If you are not taking care of your customers, your competitor will.”


Patrick Olyhoeck has more than 20 years of experience in the logistics sector. Having joined BDP in 2009, he filled local and regional positions before recently being promoted to vice president, Global Airfreight. In this role, he is responsible for one of the strategic key contacts for the international airline industry and the evolvement of offering premium global supply chain transportation service to a wide range of valued customers through the designed Global Consolidation Model. He can be reached at



Managing a streamlined supply chain for cross-border cargo transportation entails much more than identifying the fastest, most efficient method of getting cargo from point A to point B. Current market challenges have been amplified due to the pandemic and now go beyond ensuring cargo arrives at the final destination on time. The safety of transportation workers as a result of internal processes is now at the forefront of cross-border transportation. After all, if the truck driver is not healthy enough to deliver the products, the products do not move. In the new normal, worker safety is more important than ever.

“Some of the challenges out there are found more so in the area of the trucks that are crossing and the drivers,” says Michael Ford, vice president of Government and Industry Affairs at BDP. “If I was a trucking company, how do I ensure my driver’s safety? When that driver gets in the cab every day, do I know they are healthy?”

Ford continues, “Setting up those types of protocols internally, ensuring that I’m putting a safe driver on the road and that they’re able to perform those tasks as if there’s any type of cross border is critical, especially now. Coordinating, communicating, setting that up, and ensuring that everything is in play really becomes important.”

When driver safety has been established, coordination efforts are challenged once again depending on the region the cargo is crossing. Each region presents a unique set of roadblocks from customs to short and long-haul planning times. Cross-border transport from the U.S. to Canada is a much different process than what U.S. to Mexico transport requires for success.

Although these challenges are not new, they include more variables that require streamlined coordination from the very beginning. Trade lanes are now more open and traveler impact has shifted, presenting opportunities along with the challenges.

“In the past, we have seen much more congestion than we do currently,” Ford notes. “It has always been there between the U.S. and Mexico. But now, while there is less cargo and less traffic running back and forth, it has improved processing time. So, less cargo, less travel. If anything, it has improved and allows U.S. and Mexico customs to do what they need to do–which is all about security and ensuring the right cargo is coming through.”

Technology continues to play a critical role in ensuring worker safety and the efficient transport of cargo. The pandemic created an environment where technology is no longer simply an option but a requirement for the continuation of operations as it provides alternatives to paper-processes and close-contact for workers and customs agents.

“Previously when trucks cross, the driver pulls over, gets out of the cab, and hands paperwork over,” Ford says. “So, the question now is how do we achieve that full paperless experience on both sides in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico? When the driver pulls off, I need to know I have the driver, the driver’s ID, etc. and technology supports the keeping up with this information. It also keeps the driver in the cab and allows whatever information needed to be accessed.

“Advanced data has allowed a lot of that to take place. Being able to share and obtain better inter-agency  cooperation goes a long way to helping the flow of cargo across the borders.”

Technology is a part of the bigger picture. Without technology, the constant exchange of information and obtaining updated data is slowed down. Without inter-agency communications along with customs collaborations, cross-border operations are at risk for further delay. Collaborations between customs agents are the key to making operations for cross-border providers more simplified and accelerated. This incorporates security and accuracy while verifying the right cargo continues to its final destination.

“U.S. Customs has been working with Mexico and vice versa to establish points inside of the other’s country and allowing personnel to set up there,” Ford says. “In the case of letting Mexican Customs come into U.S. territory and process the clearance, it allows that truck to go all the way through, eliminating the need for stopping at the border area. This makes a world of a difference and it speeds everything up. It requires the need for cooperation of the companies that want to improve their business flow. Changing to a brand-new environment for cross borders is big.”

Beyond reducing interactions, the overall reduction of paper processes and redundancies continues to be at the top of mind for companies engaging in cross-border operations. Along with its other supply chain disruptions, COVID-19 has pushed logistics players toward paperless and contactless operations, adding more pressure to the already complex market. For some, utilizing the technology toolbox (such as blockchain) could be the very thing that overcomes the hurdles presented by the pandemic.

“We hear a lot about blockchain, and there are applications inside of this cross-border sector where blockchain can be used as a piece of technology,” Ford says. “Instead of paper, using a blockchain technology to prove that your goods qualify under the USMCA agreement should be in play, for example.”

Regardless of whether the world is battling a pandemic, streamlined collaboration will ultimately pave the way for successful cross-border trade. This requires the latest data for every participant, thorough internal and external communications, and solid business relationships with a common goal to ensure products are received safely and accurately.

“Everybody needs to be involved,” Ford maintains. “It is everybody working together: the carrier, the custom-house broker, the government, and all others. It is also about forming that type of relationship where information is being shared and collected, and as much in advance as possible is part of the success that needs to happen.”

He concludes: “Things can’t just stay the way they have been. But on the other side of things, we need cargo security and the customs officers from the U.S. and Mexico need to be safe. We talk about COVID-19 and workers, but we are also asking those officers to be on the front lines. Keeping that in play becomes a big challenge.”


Michael Ford is a career professional with more than 40 years of experience in international transportation, specializing in import/export documentation and regulatory compliance. Among his other affiliations, Mr. Ford is the co-chair for Trade on the Export Committee in the development of the new Customs ACE system and has served with Customs as a member of COAC (Commercial Operations Advisory Council), chair of the Mid-Atlantic District Export Council and the partner sector with the American Chemistry Council, Responsible Care Committee. He can be reached at

This article was originally published in December 2020



Pharmaceutical transportation is no simple task. Particularly this year, the pharmaceutical supply chain has experienced a dynamic shift in operations amid the pandemic. Global players are challenged with the new protocols in place demanding more from shippers while navigating FDA regulations and keeping workers safe. Technology has undoubtedly played a vital role in overcoming recent challenges in the sector while supporting a custom approach for customer needs. The challenges of today are indicators of technological advancements needed for the near future in pharmaceutical goods transportation.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we fundamentally view complex supply chain ecosystems,” explains Gerry Fama, vice president, Europe Sales at BDP International. “As such, BDP’s vision for service in the pharma sector is increasingly dynamic: In a fast, and sometimes unpredictable environment, the pharmaceutical industry needs 3PL and 4PL partners who can manage new and anticipate future challenges. For this reason, BDP aspires to be a proactive partner to orchestrate the entire supply chain and to provide solutions tailored to suit customer needs.”

Fama continues, “Our engineering solution team has the ability to analyze customer needs and guide them in development projects, from the onset of the design phase to final implementation. The goal is to generate integrated solutions that allow customers to have full product visibility along the entire supply chain. Investing in technology is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ but an imperative for those who, like BDP, want to proactively anticipate the new challenges of the pharmaceutical transport and logistics market.”

Technology in today’s market must go beyond gathering data and raise the bar for preparing, transporting, maintenance and communication during each step of the process. Not every industry player will be up for the challenge, but those that do step up to the plate will position themselves in the market as leaders of change in an unpredictable environment while setting the standard for the new future in strategizing and regulation.

“In the coming years, the pharmaceutical supply chain will face new challenges that will have repercussions on all aspects of the distribution chain,” Fama says. “The new rules for the storage and transport of medicines, and the advent of serialization will condition distribution choices and logistical outsourcing strategies. The development of new commercial strategies focused on the patient, the digitalization of the channel, the adoption of the new rules for the storage and transport of medicines, together with the advent of ‘serialization,’ already require a rethinking of production and logistic processes, as well as the outsourcing choices.

“Process automation and data management using new software have proven to be successful strategies for pharmaceutical logistics management. It is essential to evaluate multiple storage and distribution solutions (automatic and digital) to operate in the drug distribution chain.”

Before changes can be implemented in transportation technology, Fama emphasizes the importance of analysis and cost when selecting logistics partners. The interesting thing about pharmaceutical transportation is the cost model originally developed by pharmaceutical companies and how this model was intended. The recent (and potential future changes) in transportation are not considered in this original model. It is imperative that transparency and up-to-date data are communicated when considering ways to modify this model to better support operations.

“The budget intended for logistics by pharmaceutical companies consists of two main cost items: warehouse (storage and preparation of goods) and transport,” Fama explains. “Given the recent regulatory developments (for example in the field of safety and conservation) and the introduction of increasingly specialized products, the weight of transport has increased in recent years, reaching about 55 percent of the overall logistics cost. This increase, inserted in a cost-saving context led by the headquarters of the main pharmaceutical companies, has not changed the average incidence on the logistics costs turnover (remained equal to about 0.5 percent) or on the profits (1 percent).

“Also, for this reason, it is essential to select a logistics partner who can assist with a detailed analysis (costs vs. benefits) before modifying any existing transport and logistics model.”

Where do regulations fit into this equation? Technology paired with pharma transportation is helpful but a tedious process in terms of compliance, depending on location and partners involved. There are ways to ensure your company’s efforts for efficient, compliant transport are on-par with regulations, such as special certifications. Not only do these certifications support the timely and safe delivery of pharma products but serve as a teaching tool for education on technical processes.

“Since 2013, the legislation, especially in air transport, has become more stringent and the European community has issued new guidelines for best practices of distributing the drug for human use (GDP),” Fama says. “These guidelines ensure that all participants involved in the pharmaceutical transport logistics chain are fully compliant. The IATA (International Air Transport Association) has created a special certification called CEIV Pharma (Center of Excellence for Independent Validators) which applies the principles of the GDP and transforms them into requirements of excellence for the air transport of pharmaceutical shipments.

“The certification aims to increase technical knowledge and increase the quality of pharmaceutical transport in the air sector and is based on the training and control by validators external to the IATA who have the task of verifying whether the companies work according to the lines GDP guide.”

Advancing technology applications in any industry requires an honest assessment of the attainability of a seamless transition. The current market challenges create more barriers for technology to become deeply integrated into all processes. Technology is not the only answer needed for improving operations–whether that be transporting pharmaceuticals or other methods of shipping within the supply chain. Costs and risks will always be a factor, regardless of the technology at hand.

“There are few sectors that can boast such a vast technological and regulatory intervention that has improved and disciplined the most intimately operational aspects on several occasions, just to name a few, the constraints on delivery deadlines, minimum availability, exclusive transport obligation, in compliance with the rules of good distribution, to the most recent provisions in terms of drug traceability,” Fama says. “New technologies support the reduction and management of risks, for complete visibility of the global distribution chain: the timely intervention of the logistics operator manages to avoid or sometimes mitigate the unexpected costs caused by an anachronistic and obsolete management of logistics and transport.”

The focus of shipping pharmaceuticals should always be to ensure the products are not compromised or delayed in getting to the patient. The patient will always be at the receiving end of the process.


Gerry Fama, Vice President, Europe Sales, BDP International

Gerry Fama has been in the logistics and freight forwarding industry for more than 30 years. He has held various managerial roles within some of the largest multinationals in the international forwarding sector (Emery, FedEx, UPS and Panalpina). Since 2011, he has been a member of the American Chamber of Commerce. Gerry joined BDP in 2014, developing sales roles in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North and South America. He is currently based in Milan and can be reached at