How did you get into logistics? How did the role at DHL come about?
I originally graduated with a business degree with majors in accounting and IT. Early in my career, I tried my hand at both of these professions yet I felt that something was missing. In 1990 I applied for a role as an IT analyst in the logistics department of a pharmaceutical company and a whole new world opened up for me. Having a background in finance and IT was great, but it was really the physical nature of logistics that captured my interest.
For me, this new field of logistics felt “real” – real boxes, real products, real forklifts, real planes, real trucks – and it was especially exciting because it was leading edge (whoever had even heard of “logistics” in 1990?). That’s why I focused my subsequent studies on logistics, transportation, and distribution management and became one of the earliest Masters graduates in that course from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
Over the intervening 26 years, I have built my professional logistics experience, accepting roles in Indonesia, China, Taiwan, and Australia before joining DHL as Vice President of Life Sciences & Healthcare in Asia Pacific in 2008. My next move in DHL concentrated on supply chain leadership. From there I moved to Europe, accepting my current position as VP of DHL Life Sciences & Healthcare in EMEA. To expand our life sciences and healthcare (LSH) opportunities in the region, I now work very closely with all DHL businesses including our freight transportation and express divisions.
What does your role in DHL involve?
I am responsible for developing and maintaining our close business relationships with our top global life sciences and healthcare customers across all DHL business divisions. Core to my role is to understand the challenges and pressures our customers face in today’s and tomorrow’s LSH industry.
I frequently meet with customers to ensure we are at the forefront, collaborating closely to achieve more efficient supply chains and involving stakeholders across all the DHL business divisions as well as the DHL trend research and innovation teams. By working together, we make sure each customer has the best and smartest cold chain for their needs.
Our customers include pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, medical device companies, hospitals, clinical trial institutions, and many other LSH organisations. We share the same goals – to lead in times of change and deliver healthcare to the world.
What’s your background in temperature-controlled logistics?
Temperature-controlled logistics capabilities are the core of life sciences and healthcare logistics. As someone who has spent his career in this field, I have always taken a keen interest in cold chain developments and I’ve seen the market transform fundamentally over the past decades.
Cold chain logistics is constantly evolving. We have seen the evolution of active and passive packaging solutions as well as the evolution of services offered by airlines and shipping lines. We are seeing that extend across airports, ground handlers, and all those involved in cargo movements because it’s critical to protect product efficacy in every part of the supply chain. The smartest solutions I see now feature predictive analytics using big data. These execute via robust standard operating procedures (SOPs) and rely on dedicated IT systems to ensure end-to-end control and compliance globally.
One of our many customer surveys revealed that 40 percent of our LSH customers consider maintaining temperature control to be a major issue. That’s why many of my current discussions with customers are about harnessing the power of big data and analytics – these highly targeted activities reduce risk and enable better decisions to be taken to manage the temperature-controlled supply chain.
What has been your biggest challenge in the role?
One of my biggest challenges in this role is to continually strengthen our LSH capabilities across the EMEA region and in emerging markets. This is essential because our LSH customers need the smartest solutions and support to safeguard products, effectively manage complexity and risk, reduce total cost, and improve profitability and competitiveness.
Right now, our global life sciences and healthcare network is second-to-none. We have 4,900 sector-dedicated staff, 150+ pharmacists, and 90+ life sciences-certified stations. We also have strategically located regional hubs to provide forward stock services in free trade zones; two of these are in my EMEA territory – Dubai and Istanbul. In addition, we have 150+ life sciences-graded warehouses globally (1.8+ million square meters), 15+ GMP (good manufacturing practice)-certified sites, and 20+ clinical trial depots specifically suited to serve the clinical trial logistics needs of our pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing customers.
We also have an FTL/LTL cold chain network across Europe with four key hubs in Banbury (UK), Mechelen (Belgium), Milan (Italy), and Riga (Latvia) and further connected hubs throughout Europe for pharma-dedicated road freight services.
As you can imagine, it’s a massive task to ensure the development and ongoing availability of this LSH-specific logistics network!
What is your biggest achievement?
We have a fantastic team of professionals within DHL LSH, so allow me to answer this question on behalf of the entire team.
One of our biggest achievements is providing customers with leading-edge life sciences supply chains. Incorporating big data and predictive analytics into our lane risk assessments, we have developed a specialised and compliant network, with globally consistent IT and processes, using optimised risk-appropriate packaging, and operated by a highly trained and certified team of life sciences specialists.
In EMEA, I’ve seen for myself how this framework enables customers to handle and protect products appropriately, prevent so-called ‘temperature excursions’, always use the right packaging and transport solutions, and avoid millions of euros of cost (actual and potential) in product wastage, brand damage, and lost sales.
How would you define your company culture? And how do you get the best out of your team?
DHL is an inclusive business that works closely with its employees to create the right solutions and services for customers. We have a number of initiatives that encourage employees to get involved in the business and through which we can appreciate the hard work of our teams. Also, taking a supportive, collaborative approach to career development means we maintain a positive working environment.
For myself, I am hugely committed to working together with my team to ensure we offer the very best solutions to our customers. I am passionate about life sciences and I work hard to inspire my great team; I like to encourage people to find creative solutions to each logistics challenge.
What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
It’s difficult to pick just one important example. Something that I’ve been fascinated to witness at close hand is our development of the DHL Thermonet solution for temperature-controlled LSH air and ocean transportation.
To make this solution happen, we are using our worldwide network of GDP (good distribution practice)-certified life sciences stations, our regulatory compliant customer procedures, and our 24/7 proactive shipment monitoring and intervention services. And this solution is managed by the industry’s only purpose-built IT system, our LifeTrack system.
DHL’s centrally based global Thermonet monitoring and intervention team uses this system and works closely with customers to provide timely information on all shipments – they obtain end-to-end product visibility, temperature control, and auditable evidence. It’s such a cool solution; I just had to share that one with you!
What is it about LSH logistics that draws your attention?
As human beings, the life sciences and healthcare industry is of vital importance. Knowing that I have somehow contributed to a global supply chain that helps millions of people every day gives me a buzz! It is also an industry that is incredibly varied, so there is always something new to explore and we are pioneering some of today’s greatest social and technological advances.
Already we’ve seen key changes in drug portfolios and unprecedented expansion into new geographies and new markets. Things can go smoothly or they can go very badly wrong. Regulatory scrutiny is on the increase, and so too are financial penalties for non-compliance. Shareholders are often apprehensive; companies can make or break a brand reputation overnight, and patient lives are always at stake.
This makes LSH logistics very interesting and of course extremely important. I really enjoy being a part of the DHL team that’s improving customer supply chains through practical, proven innovation.
How has the cold chain evolved and how do you expect it to develop in the future?
The cold chain is evolving fast; this is an unbelievably exciting time to be involved in LSH logistics. Two global trends are pushing things forward – one is the ubiquity of mobile connections; the other is our ability to now analyse and store all of the data from these mobile connections. I’m talking about mobility and cloud-based big data analytics.
With these trends, we can track and generate data on any parameter in the cold chain – temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, energy consumption, and even when a door is opened or closed. The fact that this data can be transmitted via mobile devices means key processes can be monitored in real time from anywhere in the world.
Using rich analytics algorithms, we can now turn raw data such as this into predictive data, creating actionable recommendations and warnings. These improve storage and handover processes, inform business decisions, and prevent cold chain failure before it occurs. I hope that gives you a glimpse of the very real possibilities for the LSH cold chain of tomorrow.
You support some of the largest names in the industry. How do you develop supply chains that fit their needs?
Every customer has unique challenges in their supply chain so it is crucial that we work collaboratively to achieve a tailored solution.
Proximity to each customer through our vast global network can take some of the credit …although, of course, there is more to our success than this! I think what’s most important is our determination to engage at the strategic level and add value to every customer relationship. We put our unprecedented expertise (not just in logistics but also and more specifically in life sciences and healthcare) to work by getting closer to our customers and developing truly customer-centric solutions.
How has the market changed in the last 20 years?
In the last two decades, we’ve seen more and more providers and procurers of healthcare products and services base purchasing and reimbursement decisions on therapeutic performance. So it has become critical to protect product efficacy throughout the supply chain.
At the same time, there has been a huge increase in the prevalence of large molecule biologics which rely very heavily on cold chain solutions. Generics have also expanded several-fold during the last 20 years, and the emergence of markets in China, India, Brazil and Africa, for example, has challenged everyone to develop compliant supply chains in some interesting geographies.
What I see happening now is a strong confluence of life sciences and technology. The Internet of Things, big data, wearable technology, and 3D printing will greatly change the delivery of healthcare solutions to patients as we go forward.
But updating the cold chain and making it smarter is not easily done alone. So another market development over the past 20 years is growing partnerships (at strategic and tactical levels) between LSH manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies and their logistics service providers and specialised suppliers.
What are your expansion plans for the next 12-24 months?
DHL is constantly gauging where additional investments are needed. We are always working on strengthening our network and solution portfolio accordingly. For example, we recently expanded our hub at Leipzig airport allowing us to process 150,000 shipments per hour and making it easier to handle heavier, bulkier items of medical equipment.
Similarly, DHL is planning a 36,000m2 expansion of its hub at Brussels airport to allow greater flexibility in European manufacturer supply chains. For pharmaceuticals and medical devices, this will enable later pick-ups every day of LSH shipments destined for countries and territories around the globe.
Investments like these will continue through and beyond the next two years for sure. And as we continue to strengthen our network, we move ever closer to our ultimate mission of delivering healthcare to the world.