Company sees opportunity for growth in the area of precision logistics for sensitive health-care supplies
United Parcel Service Inc. early next year plans to launch a service for health-care customers that uses sensors and data analytics to track medical packages’ exact location in near-real time.
The service, UPS Premier, will prioritize the handling of shipments such as personalized medicines, DNA and gene therapies, investigative drugs, laboratory specimens and implantable medical devices. The goal is to ensure that packages arrive at exactly the right time and place, despite factors such as bad weather.
“Having better visibility about where shipments are [means] when unexpected things happen, we’ll be in a better position to react,” said Juan Perez, the company’s chief information and engineering officer.
UPS sees opportunity for growth in the area of so-called precision logistics, or the act of getting critical drugs and health-care devices to their destinations at the right time with a high level of consistency, Mr. Perez said.
Sensors on the packages will let UPS staff know where they are at any given time. Currently, UPS employees know where a high-priority package is at a few points throughout the delivery cycle based on visual cues that are placed on packages.
The new sensors interact with electronic readers in sorting and distribution operations, using technologies including Bluetooth, cellular and Wi-Fi. UPS employees can use that information to prioritize deliveries and change them as necessary, Mr. Perez said. For example, if there is a risk of a weather-related delay, the package can be quickly identified and rerouted to make sure it still gets to patients on time, he said.
The new service is the latest example of how technology is being used to improve the complex health-care supply chain, which often involves packages that are temperature-sensitive and can expire quickly. As many as 10 entities handle a drug before it gets to a patient, including manufacturers, pharmacies and wholesale distributors, experts say.
FedEx Corp. has a health-care focused logistics service called SenseAware that customers can use to monitor location of shipments, as well as precise temperature, light exposure and barometric pressure. The system gives customers updates in near-real-time.
By Sara Castellanos | The Wall Street Journal
Image Credit: Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press