Questions to Ask When Selecting a 3PL Partner for Your Pharmaceutical Business


Every logistics client has specialized needs to be accounted for, but medicinal clients’ needs carry a higher risk factors for producers and consumers alike. Improper pharmaceutical storage temperatures or an improper application of FIFO can mean losing all of your inventory in one fell swoop or, even worse, make a lot of patients ill if it isn’t caught in time.

Knowing how to vet prospective third party logistics providers in advance can reduce costs, improve efficiencies and potentially save lives. So, we’ve put together a short list of questions and requests to evaluate 3PL partners before signing a contract:


What’s the Backup Plan?

The proper storage, packing and transportation of stock is always important, but pharma inventory handling is particularly sensitive. So a good pharma logistics provider should have a well-tested backup system. If the cooling or heating system goes down, you want to have a supply chain contingency plan at each phase of storage and distribution. Ask to see temperature reading logs and how reefer trailers are monitored. At the very least you should expect digital thermostats that can be monitored actively by drivers.


How is Your Business Staying on Top of Regulations?

The pharmaceutical industry has to meet some of the strictest government requirements in order to maintain the efficacy and safety of their product. Ask for verification of regulatory compliance with agencies such as the FDA, Department of Public Health, and AIB certification. Be sure to clearly establish the records needed and a timeline for their receipt. These will show the 3PLs current regulatory health, and asking about strategies to quickly implement future regulations for a full scope of their responsiveness.


Who Will I Be Working With? 

A strong 3PL organization will give you access to a whole team of experts on every aspect of your products’ logistics journey, but to keep things simple you’ll want an individual point of contact to help you get the answers you need quickly. No one wants to be transferred from department to department. At MWCold, clients have an account manager committed to their individualized needs and direct access to the MWCold c-suite in case of emergencies 24/7/365. We’re here to be part of your team.


How Have Your Systems Improved in the Last Year? 

Logistics is an industry that moves fast, and you want to be sure that your partner is keeping up. Ask about their safety protocols and newest technologies. Talk with them about what they think is coming next for their warehouse.

At MWCold, we believe that the best system improvements come from the ground up, so we all get together monthly for an all-hands meeting we call The Blast to improve safety protocols and other systems management discussions where members from every level of our team can participate in the conversation. Then our management team carries out their implementation throughout daily operations.


What Does a Good Client Experience Look Like to You?

Everyone has different ideas of what a good client experience looks like, it’s likely you have some opinions of your own! The most important part of this question, however, is to expect a better response than something like “everything goes off without a hitch.”

In a long-term 3PL partnership, things are likely to go unexpectedly at some point. So, understanding how these kinds of situations will be handled in advance are important. Be sure to mention some of your own wishes for the experience at this time as well to begin building a good client relationship at the very beginning.


It’s likely that your pharmaceutical logistics plan will require some individualized solutions, and it’s important to find a third party logistics provider that can create custom solutions that add value to your organization’s operations. With the right relationship, a 3PL will give your business the opportunity to focus on developing and providing pharmaceuticals to patients in need.

Tags: Logistics

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