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The benefits of using warehouse management software to optimise the pharmaceutical supply chain

The benefits of using warehouse management software to optimise the pharmaceutical supply chain


Warehouse management software (WMS) can be used to improve efficiency in almost any kind of supply chain, and pharmaceutical logistics is no exception. In this article, Edward Napier-Fenning, New Business Development Manager at Balloon One, shares four key benefits of optimising the supply chain using the latest WMS technology.
Editor: PharmiWeb Editor Last Updated: 07-Jul-2021

The pharmaceutical supply chain presents unique logistical challenges. For one thing, many products in this sector are subject to extensive compliance regulations that dictate how a particular product must be transported, stored, and distributed. Stringent time constraints and use-before dates can also apply, and in many cases, additional care must be taken to ensure that pharmaceutical supplies are not compromised or contaminated. All of this makes the supply chain complex to manage.

There's also the issue of time sensitivity to consider. Shortages or delays within the pharmaceutical supply chain can cause serious and wide-reaching disruption, putting additional strain on healthcare services, and serious delays or shortages can even put patients at risk. As such, efficiency within the medical supply chain is of the utmost importance.

Optimising the supply chain using WMS can greatly improve efficiency, reducing delays, shortages, and product spoilage. Here, I'll outline just some of the benefits of using WMS within the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Reducing delays and wastage

One element of the pharmaceutical supply chain that can be particularly challenging is tracking drug expiration dates. If the system is not optimised to track and prioritise these, then inventory can slip through the cracks, leading to spoiled goods and loss of revenue.

WMS can be used to monitor best-before dates and product locations, along with other important inventory details. This can then be used to create a prioritised first-in, first-out (FEFO) system, ensuring stock is moved in a time-sensitive way. This can greatly help to reduce wasted resources, and also ensures that stock spends less time in storage or transit, ensuring all round efficiency.

Ensuring FMD compliance

Many products in the pharmaceutical supply chain are subject to the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD). This set of directives state that all shipments of pharmaceutical supplies must have a unique barcode that includes the batch number, expiration date, and a unique serial number.

WMS can read these barcodes and process this information quickly and efficiently, keeping track of essential data across the supply chain. This also ensures that SecurMed UK — the national medicine verification body — is kept up to date whenever stock is received, moved, or picked for dispatch, all in compliance with FMD regulations. Using a WMS system to take care of this process can make the process much speedier and ensures transparency across the whole supply chain, as well as improving accuracy by reducing the potential for human error during data entry. 

Safeguarding storage

Improper storage is a major issue in the pharmaceutical supply chain. According to the MHRA, almost one third of critical and major drug deficiencies are caused by improper storage temperatures (ABB). WMS can be implemented in order to help track vital storage directions, ensuring that stock is stored appropriately to reduce the chances of spoilage or contamination. WMS can even be programmed to send alerts about faulty equipment, like damaged or defective refrigeration units, preventing medicines from spoiling and keeping wasted stock to a minimum.

Additionally, WMS can also assist in optimising storage systems, ensuring the most efficient — and therefore cost-effective — use of space. Acute temperature control can also help to reduce energy consumption, cutting the cost of utility bills.

Improved security

WMS can help to effectively prevent security issues such as theft and tampering. Because WMS creates a clear stream of data about stock levels and locations, it's much easier to keep track of where everything is at a given moment, reducing opportunities for theft or damage. Digitising vendor tracking and labelling can help to prevent both accidental and criminal mislabelling of products, preventing "salting". WMS can also be implemented alongside additional security measures, such as motion-activated alarms and security cameras, providing another line of defence against criminal damage and tampering.

When disposing of controlled substances, WMS can be used to log each step of the process, ensuring any regulations are met. Having evidence of this on record can also be useful from a legal and insurance perspective if you fall victim to criminal activity or an environmental issue.

Implementing WMS across the pharmaceutical supply chain can bring all sorts of benefits, from improving efficiency and security, to cutting costs and ensuring regulations are met.