What the Doctor Ordered

FedEx HealthCare Solutions specialize in the shipping of medial and life-science products around the world.



photographs courtesy FedEx

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If you were asked to play a word association game with the concept of “healthcare,” “FedEx” probably wouldn’t be your first response. You might think of medicine, medical equipment, or even pharmaceuticals, but you may not think of how all of these highly specialized items get from one place to another. Good thing FedEx does.

FedEx has been growing and adapting to meet the needs of clients for 40 years, and one of the most detailed fields of expertise is its HealthCare Solutions arm, which touches every aspect of each branch of FedEx’s operating systems. “It’s not an operating company,” says Thomas Dale, director of FedEx HealthCare Solutions. “It’s a virtual organization inside of FedEx that connects officers around the globe that have a stake in healthcare. Healthcare is a key strategic initiative of the corporation.”

Since the beginning, FedEx has had healthcare customers come to them based on reliability and security provided for shipments, but as their mission to break down barriers of commerce across the world succeeded, demand for new services grew. It created another need in the life sciences realm that had to be filled.

“We’ve always been a partner to those types of companies,” Dale says. “But in recent years, we began to address the question of ‘what else can we do for them?’ As our customers expand their footprint globally, they’ve come to us asking how we can help.” In looking to provide more complete solutions, FedEx HealthCare Solutions originated.

“We asked ourselves, what can we do to create better access for customers, which consist of manufacturing companies, pharma companies, companies that ship samples, labs, hospitals, and research companies. They’re great at doing science but not at transportation or logistics. So, how do we help them do that? We go in, evaluate their needs, and set up a process for them,” Dale says.

In true end-to-end solution format, Dale has his eye on every stage of the proposal. His teams create concepts, plan around the concept, define the capabilities, develop it, launch it, and promote it. “We develop and launch value-added services that enhance some of the current transportation capabilities of FedEx or complement those core transportation capabilities,” Dale says. “My team is responsible for the full spectrum of taking an idea of a feature of service from infancy to maturity.” Projects and programs are also in place at every stage to work with customers on what they need and the ever-changing needs of the market.

“FedEx took a closer look at how to help customers we’d already partnered with and decided we needed a more targeted focus on this industry because of the complexity, changing regulations, and globalization,” Dale says. “We were already performing a lot of special capabilities for customers across the globe. So, we organized it in such a way as to get visibility of all of these activities, and strategically we could align regions and dedicate officers and teams to the focus.”

These teams are global in nature, with an officer or team member in every operating system of FedEx and in the 220 countries and territories involved in the program.

As for the distinction between “healthcare” and “life sciences,” Dale says that the difference in terms isn’t consistent throughout the market, so consumers shouldn’t get hung up on terminology. “We view ‘healthcare’ as broader than ‘life sciences,’” says Dale. “Customers see the value in already being integrated [with the FedEx system]; they’re getting the full power of our capabilities.”

An example of customers benefitting from the system is the 2011 Cadence Pharmaceuticals 106-palette shipment from a sourcing facility in Italy to the company’s logistics provider’s facility in Memphis. The key was to ensure that the shipment was at constant Controlled Room Temperature (CRT) between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius for the entire process. While other shipping options were available, it would have taken an extra two to four weeks, and with hospital demand high, Cadence had no time to waste.

With high-value products, speed to market is critical. FedEx provided a quicker, more cost-effective solution with their CRT Boeing 777 aircraft featuring pilot-controlled temperature zones, temperature sensors providing data points every 10 minutes, and data loggers. In addition to the charter flight, FedEx Trade Networks facilitated the expedited customs clearance, FedEx Custom Critical trucks moved supplies to and from the plane, and FedEx Express ramp crew and operations were utilized.

With regulations becoming more and more detailed, it is essential for customers to ensure and be able to prove back to the government and U.S. Food and Drug Administration that shipments stay in optimal temperature during the entire supply chain process. “Cadence found that since we’re based in Memphis, we have great relationships with regulatory organizations. We’re able to make sure shipments move through customs in a timely fashion,” says Parul Bajaj, senior communications specialist for FedEx global media relations.”

 

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