28 Jan 2020
ELPRO's Global Head of Sales & Marketing Christoph Bamert shares his views on issues, challenges, and opportunities for customers in the pharmaceutical, biotech, life sciences, healthcare, and logistics industries in this elproINTERVIEW.
What issues are currently affecting your customers?
Acting sustainably at all levels is a key concern for our customers. At the same time, they continue to struggle with major challenges in the supply chain, such as high logistics costs. Our customers are thus thinking more and more about alternatives that combine sustainability and cost-effectiveness even better.
In discussions and projects, what challenges do your customers approach you with?
In recent years we have seen a wide variety of complex requirements from our customers. For example, cold chain shipments, deliveries of 15 °C to 25 °C products, or even the implementation of serialization requirements. When we talk to customers today, many of them are telling us about last mile, direct-to-patient deliveries, and cell and gene therapies, all of which have to do with how to monitor products and samples as they travel to and from the patient, but also at the patient site.
Where do you see opportunities for your customers and how can ELPRO solutions be used in seizing these opportunities?
We see that an incredible amount of data is currently being collected in the pharmaceutical supply chain. This certainly includes data from our loggers on environmental conditions and, in the case of real-time data loggers, also on position. But beyond that, data is also being collected on routes, packaging, weather conditions, carriers, and so on. They all form a valuable data basis, which is necessary for continuous improvement. Their priorities are optimizing processes and determining which packaging is suitable for which route and temperature range. Beyond that, identifying which routes and with which carriers do the most frequent deviations occur?
However, in order to further optimize the supply chain based on this information – while keeping risk low – it must be possible to visualize and analyze this data. Our flexible solutions offer great added value here. Due to their user-friendliness and ease of use, acceptance among users –especially in the clinical environment – is very high. This enables easy, scalable implementation, starting small and adding destinations, routes, and carriers in phases.
ELPRO solutions are helping customers solve the complex challenges of mixed-load deliveries, which often arise in commercial supply chains in particular. Here products that can be transported and stored under different environmental conditions are transported on one (and the same) pallet or in the same shipment. Traditionally, companies use the alarm criteria of the most sensitive product as a benchmark for the entire shipment. As a result, when deviations occur, products are also involved whose stability budget is far from exhausted. Discarding them could mean losing millions in products that are still viable and have stability budget remaining.
With our software-based alarming and integration to the customer's ERP system, we can assign a product-specific stability budget to each product in a shipment or on a pallet. Upon delivery, an individual assessment is performed based on the data from the data logger. Assessments thus become more accurate and faster, shortening the delivery approval process. In addition, there are significantly fewer deviations that require time-consuming reassessment. And more product is saved through the entire process, potentially saving millions over time.
Which innovations have a positive impact on your customers' business?
As already mentioned, sustainability plays a major role for our customers. This calls for solutions that can be used for a longer period of time or reused after professional refurbishment. Last year, we launched an initiative to organize the recycling of some of our data loggers centrally at our company. By doing so, we want to help return the largest possible share of the valuable, scarce raw materials built into our data loggers to ELPRO's material and production cycle.
With our new real-time ECOLOG-PRO xG solution for monitoring rooms we have, among other things, focused on a particularly long runtime and replaceable batteries.
At the same time, our customers want solutions with a high degree of automation and ease of use. This ranges from simple solutions where the data from the loggers can be read out wirelessly via software without much effort at the recipient's premises or on site in labs and warehouses, to interfaces that enable complete integration of our solutions into our customers' ERP systems.
Another point is end-to-end visibility, which gives our customers a clear picture of the supply chain of their pharmaceutical product. One vision for the future is certainly the perfect interaction of all solutions from the stakeholders involved in the supply chain. But we are still a long way from that. Until then, we already cover two essential areas within the cold chain supply with our solutions for room monitoring and cold chain monitoring.
What will be your future focus at ELPRO?
Our focus is clearly on quality-relevant data, its collection, processing, and evaluation. Here, we are currently in a transformation process from a provider of hardware and software solutions to a monitoring-as-a-service company. We want to offer our customers total solutions that bring together all the previously mentioned aspects such as sustainability, automation, and end-to-end visibility, while at the same time offering more advanced services such as control towers for predicting and preventing alarms, but also for the possibility to interact if deviations are indicated or arise during transport. This transformation process cannot be realized overnight. But together with Bosch Service Solutions, we now have the opportunity to tackle it.
Which markets will ELPRO focus on in the coming months?
In Europe, ELPRO has left a strong footprint, quite clearly. Switzerland and Germany are our home markets, and we have gradually added numerous locations throughout Europe. So for us, it is now a matter of focusing even more on North and South America and on Asia, especially Japan and South Korea.
No doubt, North America is one of the biggest markets in the world for our business. And even though we are certainly already strongly positioned there, we still see enormous growth potential. In the Japanese and South Korean markets, we find interesting regulatory conditions for which companies can benefit from our solutions. In addition, both countries are home to large domestic pharmaceutical companies that are increasingly focusing on exporting their products. Here, too, we see great potential for the use of our solutions. In order to be even closer to these markets, we are currently focusing more on establishing our own ELPRO sites in Japan and South Korea.
What do you personally think about most as you look ahead to the months ahead?
Above all, I would like to see more stability again when I look at the global crises, be they the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine, or the COVID-19 pandemic, which is fortunately declining. I would like to focus on the further development of our solutions and seize the opportunities that arise for us and our customers from the cooperation with Bosch Service Solutions.