COVID-19 is impacting the healthcare system in a way we’ve never seen before, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are facing new challenges at rapid speeds. To help keep you informed, we’re releasing a special Q&A series with our experts to discuss the virus’s impact on each stage of the launch journey.
If you’d like to speak with us about how to plan your 3PL inspection process, get in touch.
Vice President of Specialty Distribution
Vice President of Client Services
How is COVID-19 impacting the manufacturer-3PL relationship?
Whether you’re still selecting your 3PLs or are fully operational with your partners, there may need to be some quick adjustments and decisions. If you find yourself in one of the situations below, Two Labs can provide guidance to keep your launch on time and your product moving.
For those who haven’t officially kicked off with 3PL providers, the entire process will look different due to the restriction of face-to-face contact. They won’t be able to conduct an in-person site visit, and instead will need to conduct the entire process of the quality audit virtually. This might mean a quality questionnaire in lieu of a full audit, and then an additional desktop audit. Some 3PLs are offering to set up video calls to run through documents and tour the facility. There are security concerns about how much to provide online or through email, but 3PLs are working to find a balance so that they can keep the relationship moving.
For manufacturers who have already initiated a partnership with a 3PL provider, their annual audits will need to be done virtually, just as stated above for initial audits. Additionally, they may want to assess the locations of their inventory and diversify their holding facilities to help mitigate the risk of a site shutting down or restricted access to their product. This type of contingency planning can set companies up for success if something were to happen at their primary facility.
Who are most at risk for seeing an impact on their 3PL process?
The manufacturers that are most likely to feel the effects are those that are approaching this phase of inspections and audits. If there was an audit previously scheduled for April or May, those will have to be rescheduled for June at the earliest, which might put a delay in their state licensing and overall launch timeline unless they are willing to use one of the virtual solutions.
Additionally, manufacturers who already have their 3PL partners and processes in place may be approaching their annual audit. So, in reality, the limitation on face-to-face meetings can impact a large number of manufacturers during this March-June window that we’re in.
For manufacturers who are working with international 3PLs, they will need to continually monitor the state of the COVID crisis in the countries they are pursuing operations in. If a manufacturer has a product coming out of China for instance, there may be a significant delay in production and shipment. Depending on how long this outbreak lasts, there could be a substantial impact on the product that they have available for the next few years.
What is your advice for manufacturers at this time?
The good news is that this process can continue one way or another. Although it might look different with desktop audits and video calls, it’s possible to complete 3PL inspections in a timely manner, even during this outbreak. But it’s important not to overreact and rush the process.
It might be harder to feel out a 3PL relationship through virtual calls and emails, but it’s important to ensure that the partnership is a fit for all parties involved. As much as possible, assess for personality and working-style compatibility.
As stated above, contingency planning is key. Selecting a 3PL provider that has multiple facilities may be an important part of the selection criteria as a way of providing for business continuity in case an issue closes one site.
In the event that 3PL operations (such as a wholesaler) are impacted, you’ll want to be sure that the partners you selected are flexible enough to reroute orders to a secure and reliable facility. Additionally, if you were planning on having your 3PL partner manage the distribution of samples to your sales team, you will want to ensure that they have the appropriate capabilities to pivot to distribute these samples directly to your targeted prescribers, should your sales strategy need to shift. This means verifying that the 3PL is able to check recipient licensing.
Since we are working in an ‘essential’ industry, we need to do everything we can to make sure that pharmaceutical products continue to move at a pace that meets prescriber and patient needs, especially if it is a cold chain shipment. Make sure you understand a 3PL’s relationship with key carriers and that they have strong global trade support that can assist in moving freight in or out of the country with minimal to no delays.
Emerging manufacturers might be new to assessing and evaluating potential 3PL providers. But especially right now, it’s important to select a quality 3PL that you can trust to keep your business moving in an uncertain economy. Two Labs has spent years working with 3PLs — finding a partner who has a database of pricing and logistics structures will be invaluable for a manufacturer looking to make the best decision for their company and product.
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Do you need help determining the impact of COVID-19 on your launch and how to navigate forward? Fill out the form below to get in touch with our expert team.