Insights / Publications

Raising the floor with real-time visibility – key takeaways from the Gartner Supply Chain Xpo

Hristo Petkov, SVP Partnerships at Controlant, and Paula Pulsoni, VP Sales and Services at World Courier, co-presented at the Gartner Supply Chain Xpo in June, but the title of their keynote – ‘Raising the floor with real-time visibility’ – also sums up some of the key themes at the Barcelona event. Whether you’re talking about antifragile supply chains, an ecosystem approach to sustainable supply chains, or more patient-centric pharma supply chains, it all comes down to raising the bar across the board in making the best use of technology to create more sustainable supply chains.


Sign up for the Controlant newsletter

Keep up with developments in pharma supply chain visibility. Sign up for Controlant Insights and receive our latest white paper.

The triple value of real-time visibility as a standard offering

For World Courier’s partnership with Controlant, ‘raising the floor’ has a more specific meaning, in that the impressive results they’ve achieved are not just for top tier customers, or exclusively for hypersensitive or high-value products, they’re results that benefit all customers as part of the standard offering.

What the partnership has achieved can be summed up as delivering value on three fronts: to patients, enabling more timely access and delivery of critical medications; to the planet, decreasing product loss and reducing waste through the use of rechargeable, multi-use loggers; and to partners and customers, through greater transparency and control over shipments, with best-in-class performance.

As Paula said during the keynote, “What excited me about this partnership from the early days, when we selected Controlant as a partner to embark on this journey, it became really evident that our purposes were aligned and we really wanted to deliver on this triple value.”

This approach to real-time visibility as a multi-value contribution was prominent in the narrative as Hristo and Paula spoke about their partnership and the value of real-time supply chain monitoring for pharmaceutical logistics, packaging, and wholesaler companies, with a focus on how they operationalize data to empower people.

Alignment and partnership to create healthier ecosystems

“If you don't have a robust partnership, it's very, very difficult to achieve success!” said Paula. Both companies are aligned in their vision for sustainable supply chains, and both stress that as part of the healthcare ecosystem, the patient must always come first. Like all companies, they also need to think of the bottom line as they optimize and create operational excellence and cost savings that are tangible for customers.

“I think we are privileged to work in healthcare,” said Paula, “because we have a purpose that is very tangible. Our responsibility is to create healthier futures. But what has become very evident over the years is that this cannot be detached from our responsibility to create healthier ecosystems.”

How Controlant and World Courier fit together

Controlant’s vision is to unleash the power of technology through people to create zero-waste supply chains. In practical terms, we have IoT monitoring loggers – Saga devices – that are reusable and rechargeable, which provide real-time visibility and directly contribute to the sustainability targets of our partners. With our Aurora platform, the data we provide is not only real-time, but is pharma verified, fulfilling the strictest of quality and compliance requirements. This type of real-time data and visibility is the foundation of intelligent automation – greatly simplifying very complex cold chain challenges.

World Courier is owned by Cencora, a top 10 Fortune 500 corporation. They are a specialty logistics provider, focused on pharmaceutical supply chains, with over 120 facilities in more than 50 countries. They transport and store products for pharmaceutical supply chains, from investigational to commercial drugs and samples, and from cell and gene therapies to the raw materials for pharmaceutical manufacturing.

It’s easy to see how the two companies are a perfect fit: Controlant has real-time, reusable IoT devices, a platform, and services, all designed for the pharma supply chain, and World Courier needs to track pharma products and multi-use packaging, as well as access data into what’s happening now, how to intervene if needed, and how to improve what happens in the future. Moreover, their customers need to be able to see what’s happening in real time too.

With Controlant’s Aurora platform, World Courier can make sense of all the data, see the challenges, and share real-time shipment information with their customers too.

The picture shows a screenshot from the pharma-compliant Aurora platform with a reusable Saga IoT device. Controlant is a global leader in the digital transformation of pharma supply chains, offering real-time monitoring solutions that include the Aurora cloud platform, advanced IoT devices, and dedicated services.

Simplifying supply chain complexity

Real-time visibility technology is one thing, but providing the relevant data in an easily accessible and digestible format is just as critical. Most of us have used a track-and-trace portal at some point, and know what it’s like to see a milestone but have no idea when our parcel will reach the next milestone. So, ease of use – the experience as a consumer of the data – was a key criterion and something the partnership is proud to have achieved.

With live visibility of their multi-use packaging, World Courier wanted to be able to share this visibility with their customers. Single Purpose View is an embedded feature that means when a World Courier customer logs into their track-and-trace portal, they can simply press on a link to get a pop-up live view of the location of their product.

As Hristo describes it, “This was rather complex to begin with, but this is how through data and technology we created something very simple and very cool to have. This feature requires no user access. If your customer can log in their page in your tracking trace portal, they can open it.” The feature can be customized, you can share location, and will soon be able to share live temperature too.

It takes very cool technology to reach 100%

Described by Paula as “very cool technology”, she explained how Controlant’s solution solved the challenge of gaining visibility of critical data points along a supply chain that is becoming more and more complex: “Effectively it meant for us to have access to those data points that would then enable our team to make informed decisions when critical things were interrupted in the supply chain.”

World Courier’s very ambitious objective was to deliver 100% of their multi-use packaging shipments with the Controlant Saga device, and they were successful in achieving that. This relates to a concept that was a recurring theme during the Gartner symposium: antifragility.

How to become antifragile

Put simply, an antifragile supply chain is one that not only survives disruption, but thrives in a crisis. One way to achieve this is to go that extra mile, as World Courier and Controlant have done, and aim not just to improve results, but to bring them to 100%, because even a hairline fault, under pressure, can lead to a breakage.

Automation is critical to antifragility as it can help ensure that, no matter the disruption, the strain on manual resources will not break the system. For example, the ability to release products automatically if there haven’t been any deviations. This frees up employees to spend more time adding value in the areas that require manual attention.

As World Courier President, Nick Porter, says: “Real-time data covers everything. AI alleviates the need for human eyes on data. Of course you want human intervention, but you don’t want people looking at things that don’t need their attention.”

AI won’t replace people, but people with AI will replace people without AI.

With recent developments in real-time monitoring and other supply chain technology, highly automated antifragile supply chains are now more easily achievable, and here at Controlant we’re excited to help drive and develop the technological advances that enable antifragile pharma supply chains.

Giving customers access to real-time shipment status with Single Purpose View is another good example, drastically reducing time spent manually investigating shipments. With this feature, your track-and-trace teams can instantly share live links with, giving users access to live updates through a simple self-service interface.

Hristo mentioned during the keynote how, from the beginning, World Courier expected the partnership to bring their successful delivery rate of 99.9% up to 100%. This was a supply chain that was already operating extremely successfully, but in the spirit of antifragility, they had decided to deliver that extra 0.1% to reach 100%.

Delivering on time and on budget

World Courier is a global standard in specialty logistics but with a global footprint their size, implementing new solutions presents challenges at scale. In this case, they needed to train over 2,500 employees before go-live, plus prepare for a smooth client adoption. Controlant and World Courier worked together with a good mix of planning, flexibility, and ambition to ensure success, and ended up rolling the solution out in less than six months; one month ahead of schedule.

For both parties, their values and sense of purpose were critical factors in the success – where transporting life-saving medicines means failure is not an option. This purpose also brings us back to the concept of ‘raising the floor’ and building this 100% success rate into the design of the standard offering.

Visibility increasingly valuable for the complex pharma industry

The progression of advanced therapies increases the complexity of the pharmaceutical supply chain. Biological molecules are more difficult to transport, and the rising need for personalized supply chains – for a single patient – add further challenges for the pharmaceutical industry.

The decentralization of clinical trials, where we need to deliver products directly into the patient's home, means that we need to travel greater distances, in more complex scenarios, to more remote locations. Medicines are constantly improving, but they’re only effective if they arrive safely and on time for the patient.

Automatic release mechanism photo.

Sustainable by design

There’s no room for failure when it comes to healthcare and when it comes to sustainability – we either have a future on this planet or we don’t. World Courier and Controlant are united in their responsibility to create healthier futures, and this purpose is intrinsically linked to creating healthier ecosystems. By eliminating waste in one of the world’s most critical supply chains, we are shaping responsible supply chains and a more sustainable future for the planet.

With the global rise in carbon emissions becoming one of the greatest environmental and economic challenges of our time, World Courier and Controlant prioritise reducing emissions while increasing efficiency of global logistics operations. Circularity is a big part of this, a circularity made possible by designing reusable and recyclable elements into the supply chain.

Turning ESG intentions into actions

One example of this commitment to sustainability is the way World Courier avoids emissions from electronic waste by using multi-use Saga devices. This use of multi-use loggers saves around 1,965 tonnes of CO2eq per annum. To put this in perspective, think of the emissions from a fuel-powered passenger vehicle and imagine driving to the moon and back ten times – or 8 million kilometers.

Controlant has a validated science-based target and have committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2030 from a 2022 base-year, with leadership committed to measuring and reducing scope 3 emissions. In 2023, we reduced overall emissions by 68% and scopes 1 and 2 emissions by 38%, on track to meet our 2030 science-based target. Controlant has a Silver rating from EcoVadis, one of the world’s most trusted business sustainability rating providers, placing it among the top 15% of rated companies for sustainability across industries.

Finding partners that meet our sustainability standards is paramount. When World Courier chose Controlant as a vendor and partner, the science-based target was a key element. Cencora, their parent company, also has science-based targets and other ESG initiatives, one of which is to ensure most of their providers, vendors, and partners have science-based targets as well.

Appreciating how critical this is for both patients and the planet, World Courier concluded that whatever real-time visibility solution they implemented could not be a premium feature – so they decided to raise the floor. The industry has evolved into a place where that standard should be a given, and this was the only way to keep the customer in the center.

Key recommendations

In summing up their keynote with a number of recommendations, Paula and Hristo emphasized the importance of identifying the multi-value capability, of designing your operating model to evolve in order to benefit from multiple bottom-line impacts, of seeking out vendors who will be partners in digital transformation, and of looking ahead to prepare your supply chain for the future potential of real-time visibility.

We’ll share some of the other key take-aways from the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium in future newsletters, including a deep dive into antifragility and reverse engineering the sustainable supply chain. But we wanted to conclude by bringing the conversation back to a human example at the heart of the matter:

What patient-centric technology is all about

During the keynote, Paula illustrated the impact of real-time visibility success through the true story of a woman named Maria, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder and relies on access to medication that is delivered to her in Soa Paolo, Brazil, exclusively for her use. It’s a beautiful example of the importance of real-time visibility in supply chain design.

It happened that while one shipment was making its way from Europe to Brazil, there was a cargo mismatch that normally meant everything would need to be unloaded and thoroughly inspected. This would mean a delay of hours or more, and for Maria, a delay could be catastrophic.

But there was a Saga logger with the shipment so World Courier could tell the airline the exact location of the shipment. Within 20 minutes, the shipment had been recovered from the cargo and placed on another plane to reach Maria in time for her treatment.

Maria got the medicine, knew it was safe to use, nothing was wasted, and World Courier and their client were happy with the result and the ROI. Patient, planet, partners.

Maria's journey - see the link in the text to this story from World Courier

Read the full story of 'Maria's journey' from World Courier here.

About the speakers

Paula Pulsoni
Hristo Petkov
VP Sales and Services, World Courier
SVP Partnerships, Controlant
Based in Madrid, Paula Pulsoni is responsible for driving sustained growth and service development by leading the Personalized Supply Chain, Commercial Supply Chain, Clinical Supply Solutions, and Lab Logistics service lines, network wide. She holds a Pharmacy degree from the University of Buenos Aires and MBA from the University of Warwick. Paula began at World Courier more than 17 years ago as a depot pharmacist, later moving into regional and then global roles. Passionate about sustainability and continuous improvement, she has a Master’s in Circular Economy.
Hristo is dedicated to solving complex pharmaceutical logistics challenges for the sector, namely logistics and special logistics companies, packaging and wholesalers. Prior to joining Controlant in 2022, he led engagement with large pharma customers at A.P. Moller-Maersk where he initiated and built the Pharma vertical, among other roles related to cold chain and global trade. Hristo advocates improving product visibility and integrating logistics eco-systems to drive innovation in medications and collaboration for improved supply chains. He is passionate about contributing to the ongoing optimization of healthcare supply chains.