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OM in the News: UPS and its Team of Pharmacists

July 4, 2012

UPS is well-known for its army of brown-uniformed delivery drivers. Less known is that the package-delivery giant has its own team of pharmacists. At UPS’s Louisville headquarters, company pharmacists fill 4,000 orders a day for insulin pumps and other supplies from customers of medical-device company Medtronics. UPS pharmacists  log into Medtronic’s system, fill the orders with devices stocked on site, and ship them to patients, via UPS.

It is one part of the growing reach, writes The Wall Street Journal (June 28, 2012) by UPS—along with rivals FedEx and DHL—into the business of running supply chains for pharmaceutical and medical-device companies. Medtronic and other health-care companies are increasingly outsourcing logistics as they look for ways to cut costs from backroom operations and focus on product development instead (see Chapter 11). UPS’s service has allowed Medtronic to close its own distribution warehouse and see a significant reduction in the costs of processing each order. “If you’re a medical company, logistics isn’t your core expertise,” says an industry analyst.

The parcel-delivery companies are investing in megawarehouses that service multiple pharmaceutical companies at once, with freezers for medicines and high-security vaults for controlled substances. UPS got into health-care logistics in 2006 and the business has grown rapidly, with 33 health-care logistics facilities around the world, including a plant in Brazil opened last year specifically to handle the supply chain in that country for Merck.

Walgreen chose UPS to transport $9 million of donated flu vaccine—375,000 doses, to Laos in March. Fifty UPS “health care logisticians” coordinated the complicated journey. The 8,500-mile flight took five days and included four stops, ending in Bangkok, where the containers were loaded onto a truck for Vientiane, Laos.

Discussion questions:

1. What are the risks to UPS in entering the medical supply chain business?

2. Why would medical companies outsource their order systems to  parcel companies?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 15, 2013 12:55 pm

    Nice post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired! Very helpful information.

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