Trends Favoring Reusables and Tracking Tech in the Asia Pacific Pharma Market

Information reported in Technavio’s latest report on the pharmaceutical logistics market in APAC (Asia Pacific) provides an analysis of the most important trends expected the coming years. As an important sidebar, it also touches on some of the increased opportunities for reusable packaging.

Technavio paints the pharmaceutical logistics market in APAC as being driven by the increasing demand from an aging population, along with scientific and technological developments and the economic growth of nations such as China and India. Also of note, the patent rights for several leading drugs are set to expire this year, providing a boost to generic drug providers.

Technavio reports the three most important trends for the pharmaceutical logistics market in APAC include innovative packaging and technology, the growth of emerging countries and the shift to biologicals, and finally the increased investment in automated storage and fulfillment systems.

Innovation in pharmaceutical packaging and technology in cold chain logistics

“Reusable containers are being increasingly used in pharmaceutical logistics to reduce waste,” says Shakti Jhakar, a lead analyst at Technavio for research on logistics. “Moreover, some companies are encouraging the use of green packaging materials. For instance, World Courier launched a new packaging solution for pallet-sized shipments known as Cocoon in 2016. This packaging will reduce the transportation costs and maintain a temperature to increase the shelf life of drugs and medicines by 40%, as compared with other products.”

Cold chain carriers have invested in onboard equipment, built into refrigeration units to track temperature and location. This also makes data available to 3PLs and shippers in real time, offering increased visibility and the opportunity to mitigate or prevent loss. Some shippers use removable sensors, which independently track the temperature levels of their cold cargo, generally used for high-value goods and international shipments.

Huge scope in emerging countries and shift toward biological drugs

“The cold storage market in emerging economies, such as India and China, is still in its developing phase,” adds Shakti, noting challenges related to the lack of cold chain infrastructure. Continued investment in modern logistics, however, is leading to a transformation.

Adoption of automated storage and retrieval systems

The adoption and use of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) is one of the major trends in the pharmaceutical logistics companies in the Asia Pacific region, including systems from Daifuku and Dematic. AS/RS systems work best with high quality, precisely dimensioned reusable containers and pallets, and so reusables should be expected to grow in conjunction with automated storage and fulfillment systems.

Technavio also notes the applicability of AS/RS systems in controlled temperature facilities, where operating temperatures can be as low as -0.5°F. Other attractive benefits of automated storage systems include improved space utilization, reduced energy consumption, and labor cost reductions of more than 50%. Labor savings are made possible particularly in the order picking function, as goods are presented to the worker, eliminating the travel time requirements which are present in manual order picking environments. (For examples of automation at work with reusables, see my reports on AutoStore and Cimcorp.)

In summary, waste reduction and green materials initiatives, automation, and the growing modernization of emerging markets are logistics trends which are supporting the growth of reusable packaging usage. Additionally, shippers of high value, temperature controlled biological drugs are increasingly seeing the value of utilizing sophisticated sensors and tracking technology, which may be included in the reusable packaging systems offered.