What the Doctor Ordered
FedEx HealthCare Solutions specialize in the shipping of medial and life-science products around the world.
photographs courtesy FedEx
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.”
FedEx HealthCare Solutions creates shipping procedures, including FedEx Deep Frozen, FedEx Insight, Custom Critical, and more, in-house, making them among the best in utilizing cutting-edge technology for the market. For example, instead of making customers go through the hassle of purchasing thermal blankets themselves for special shipments, FedEx bought them in bulk and now offers that as a service, saving the customer time and money because FedEx now owns the resource.
Another bonus for customers is that each of these technologies was designed to be integrated with one another for maximum visibility. “As global demand grew, FedEx sat up and took notice of the great opportunity to showcase our reliability, security, supply chain, and custodial control,” Bajaj says. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all for every customer; we’re very consultative and engaged with each customer to develop new technologies to meet their needs.”
One such advancement is SenseAware, powered by FedEx, which allows customers to monitor variables like location, temperature, and the shipment’s exposure to light. “We take a look at the capabilities that we currently have, leverage some best-in-class technology that’s in the market, and merge it with FedEx HealthCare Solutions to create a solution for our customer,” says Dale.
The SenseAware technology won FedEx two World Mail awards for excellence in the global express industry. Sensor-based logistics is becoming key in the industry, allowing the ability to monitor shipments in real time adding an extra layer of security, and FedEx holds most the patents for it. In the April 2013 issue of Memphis magazine, Marilyn Sadler writes, “Using SenseAware, customers can follow a shipment’s journey to its destination, receive alerts if it experiences environmental changes or has gone off-route, and intervene if problems arise.”
This technology and others, like FedEx Priority Alert, address the customers’ need of, “Don’t tell me what’s wrong with my shipment; help me do something about it,” Dale says. Priority Alert is available in 72 countries and actually allows you to intervene in your shipment by providing re-icing and re-gel pack services. There are more than 40 re-icing locations around the globe to provide solutions as well as security. “Customers hope they never have to use it, but it’s there for peace of mind,” Dale says.
“Healthcare has become a huge focus area for FedEx and its competitors,” Bajaj says. “One of the quotes we always go back to is from our chairman [Fred Smith] in 1973 when he said, ‘The information about the package is as important as the package itself.’ It’s in our DNA. We’re always looking for ways to add layers of monitoring and visibility to our customers that is unmatched by our competitors.”
FedEx has paid attention to the ever-changing needs of the industry while still providing core capabilities to each specific case. “We can find out the customers’ true needs and tailor solutions for them,” Bajaj says. “The biggest thing we provide our customers is access. Now that more and more drugs are being manufactured overseas, we’re able to get them around the globe at lower costs.” Dale says, “Our customers have been able to truly save lives.”