With the United States continuing to lead the world in medical device manufacturing, healthcare professionals across the globe depend upon companies in America to deliver devices and pharmaceuticals safely to their hospitals and clinics.
Medical device and pharmaceutical companies, in turn, bear the responsibility of ensuring that their products reach customers in the safest and fastest way possible. Below are eight steps to improve and simplify medical logistics processes within your company.
1) Make secure packaging a top priority
"Shipping is one of the hazards a medical device and its packaging must survive.Subtle damage can result during transportation and handling unless the total packaging system is designed robustly and can withstand various stresses. Well-sealed packaging is essential for those medical devices that must be maintained sterile."
- World Health Organization Medical Device Regulations
Some people mistakenly assume that there is nothing they can do to prevent damage from occurring when shipping medical devices. On the contrary, suppliers can play an active role in preventing damage by making secure packaging a top priority. You can improve your packaging by ensuring that employees are properly trained to securely pack fragile items.
2) Consider your destination and mode of shipment prior to packaging items
Shipping a fragile, expensive piece of equipment such as a surgical light or anesthesia machine by sea freight is much different than shipping the same items by air. While sea freight and ground freight shipping are generally less costly than air freight, the transit time is longer and shipments are more likely to incur damage during the shipping process.
If you plan to ship delicate devices by maritime cargo, you need to remember that shipping containers are exposed to the harsh elements and should heed the following recommendations:
- Consider placing your devices in a sturdy crate for international shipping
- Make sure you shrink wrap devices to protect them before placing them in a crate
- Whether you are placing items into a large crate or a small box, make sure to use plenty of packing material
- Clearly label every box, skid, and crate with your address and the customer's address
Ground shipping costs are largely dependent on the size of medical devices you are transporting. Using ground freight shipping is a great method for bulkier items and costs significantly less than air. One thing to keep in mind with ground shipping is the time sensitivity of your shipments and the dangers of the road (potholes, hijackings, sudden stops, theft, and loading and unloading). Here are two common options for ground shipping:
- One option is the less-than-truckload (LTL) method, wherein your medical device shipments are not taking up the entire truck and you share the remaining space with other customers, therefore dividing usage of the truck and cost associated with the space. This is one of the cheapest options for shipping. The downside to this method is primarily the time it takes to make multiple stops.
- Full truckload (FTL) entails using the entire space of a truck, requiring significantly less stops. Though this option is typically more expensive than LTL, you save time during the process.
Air freight shipping is the most expensive of the three transportation methods involved in your medical and pharmaceutical logistics processes, but perhaps the safest. Keep the following details in mind:
- Shipping by air entails heightened security and helps to prevent theft and damages for fragile goods.
- Flights are much faster methods to ship rather than ground and sea, however they are subject disruption, delays, and limited by weather restrictions.
- Planes have weight limitations: the heavier the item, typically, the more expensive the shipping charges.
3) Invest in a variety of box sizes
The medical device industry is not a "one size fits all" type of industry. Medical devices and pharmaceutical products exist in all shapes, weights, and sizes. Attempting to squeeze a delicate device into a box that is too small can lead to damage while using an oversized box can lead to unnecessarily high shipping charges. You can avoid these pitfalls by keeping a variety of different sized boxes and cartons on hand at all times.
4) Choose a shipping carrier with expertise in medical devices and pharmaceuticals
Not all shipping companies are created equal. Many carriers will likely appear eager to transport your medical equipment or pharmaceuticals. However, few freight companies specialize in shipping healthcare devices or pharmaceuticals. As a result, they may treat the shipment of a fragile heart-lung machine the same way that they would treat a shipment of bricks. As you evaluate freight companies, make sure you select a carrier that possesses proven experience in medical logistics. The key takeaway here is to do your shopping and talk to a couple carriers to negotiate reasonable shipping expenses.
5) Insure your shipments
Respiratory ventilators, anesthesia machines, and even smaller devices can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Shipping such devices without insurance is extremely risky for the seller and buyer alike. Having a customized plan for medical device insurance will give you the peace of mind you need to send valuable devices and pharmaceutical across the country or overseas with confidence.
We have previously discussed why third party parcel insurance is the preferred method of insuring shipments. In short, third party insurance providers offer better rates, can directly integrate with single or multi-carrier systems, and have much more specialized knowledge in the field of insurance than UPS, USPS, DHL, and other shipping companies. Leave shipping to the shipping experts and protection to the insurance professionals.
6) Take photographs or videos of devices and pharmaceuticals before they are shipped
This step may require a little bit of time, but it is a great way to capture the condition of a device or pharmaceutical order before it ships. If you have the resources to take a quick video prior to dispatching new orders, make sure you zero in on the serial number and any accessories that accompany the device. Finally, try to capture the packing of the products and the sealing of the box or crate. These photos and videos may come in handy if an order arrives damaged and you have to file a shipping claim.
7) Make sure you do not ship to an embargoed country or someone on the denied persons list (DNP)
"Denied Persons List - Individuals and entities that have been denied export privileges. Any dealings with a party on this list that would violate the terms of its denial order are prohibited."
- United States Department of Commerce
It is your responsibility as a medical device supplier to ensure that you are not shipping to a country or individual who is prohibited from receiving products from the United States. The U.S. Department of Commerce provides a list of individuals and sanctioned destinations to which companies are not permitted to ship. Ignoring these sanctions or choosing to ship to individuals or countries on these lists can result in harsh penalties ranging from cash fines to prison time.
8) Follow up with your customers after their orders are shipped
Even if you adhere to all of the steps above, it is always a good idea to follow up with your customers to let them know that their orders are on the way. In addition to providing your customer with tracking information and an estimated delivery date, you demonstrate your commitment to providing a high level of proactive customer service.
In the event of a loss, most companies will begin shipping a replacement of the lost good right away or compensate so as to not lose any business. Because the claim process is often time consuming, it is a bad idea to wait to settle a claim before compensating a buyer for a lost package or delivery. To speed up the claims process, we encourage you to integrate with a shipping insurance company that handles shipping insurance claims quickly, efficiently, and in an automated, paperless fashion.
What is the single best way to improve your logistics process?
Clearly, there are many steps you can take to create a smoother process for your company. However, the single best way to improve your logistics process is to seek the guidance of a leader in the shipping insurance industry. With over 25 years of experience as a shipping insurance provider for pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers, Cabrella has the tools and resources to help you build a seamless logistics strategy. We invite you to contact us to learn why shipping insurance is a necessity for today's medical and pharmaceutical companies. We look forward to hearing from you!