With 2015 set to be a year of fast growth for the UK life science sector, Toby Hay, Global Sales Manager, FedEx HealthCare Solutions
, offers advice on overcoming the logistics challenges faced by organisations who want to go global.
AM: Why is now a good time for the sector?
TH: The life science sector in the UK is about to boom. In the first half of 2014, the industry raised more financing (£734m) than in all of 2013 (£483m). This makes it Europe's top destination for life science funding, dovetailing seamlessly with the government's aim to make the UK a global hub for the sector.  In truth, it is already well on its way and the growth potential for businesses that this cash injection will create is vast.
AM: Is demand domestic or international? How do you choose markets to export to and how important are emerging markets?
TH: The number of life science companies in the UK is rising, but so is demand for their output. Chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes require more consideration than ever and combined with an ageing population, the "pull" from the domestic market is growing stronger. But, in an international age, is meeting domestic demand enough? Increased funding will create an environment where UK life science businesses have more opportunities than ever to "push" overseas. Many are already doing so with UK exports accounting for 15% of the global total. That's not to say more can't be done, especially in emerging markets and in countries experiencing sustained population growth.
You could, for example, look to Russia where almost 80 percent of healthcare products are imported, or China where pharmaceutical sales are expected to grow an average 17.7 percent per year until 2017.Tapping into your logistics provider's expertise is again an effective way of researching new markets, and identifying the right opportunities for your business.
AM: When delivering overseas, how important is on-time delivery?
TH: Ensuring shipments arrive on time is unarguably crucial, but becomes harder to achieve the further they travel. Healthcare supply chains, for example, are often complex and involve multiple waypoints. The key is striking a balance between value and speed. Having the option to pick up the phone and have your products in a customer's hands within two days is invaluable in securing business which might otherwise go elsewhere. The key is flexibility to react to the situation at hand.
AM: How can you avoid disruption to the supply chain?
TH: An absolute must in this industry is the ability to know for certain that critical and sensitive shipments will arrive on time in the exact condition they need to be. You also need to be able to assess if they have been properly stored for the duration of the journey. In recent times, a number of options have become available for this. The FedEx SenseAware® service uses sensor based technology to provide near real-time visibility on shipments in terms of location, temperature, shock, barometric pressure and exposure to light.
AM: What steps can you take to overcome regulatory compliance challenges?
TH: Regulations not only change frequently, but differ from country to country and many nations are not nearly as flexible as the UK aspires to be. The key is to get ahead of the game by understanding the rules and regulations from the get-go. You don't need to become an expert; your logistics provider is an invaluable fountain of knowledge who can advise on potential hurdles and provide strategic advice every step of the way. The best providers will have on-the-ground specialists who know the rules inside out, giving you total peace of mind.
AM: What other services does FedEx offer in this area?
TH: When the unexpected happens, you need the reassurance that the challenge can be overcome without delay. Services, such as FedEx Priority Alert Plus®, can help by offering proactive recovery, dry ice replenishment, gel pack conditioning and access to cold storage. Having these options is particularly useful to companies in the healthcare sector, though can be an asset to any company moving items of a sensitive or perishable nature.
AM: What’s a good example of a success story?
TH: One of our customers is Biorbyt
, a leading bioscience company with a simple yet challenging mission: to provide the best service to the global scientific community. Based in Cambridge, UK; since launching in 2011, Biorbyt has grown rapidly to now employ over 30 people. Testament to both its fast growth and global ambitions, Biorbyt currently exports to 5,000 customers in 25 nations worldwide and opened new offices in San Francisco, US, in 2012.
Given that 60% of Biorbyt sales currently come from overseas, it was faced with the issue of how to get products into customers' hands on time and intact whilst also ensuring first-rate customer service. To achieve this, it needed a logistics partner which could not only keep up, but help facilitate this. Biorbyt regularly ships products that require controlled temperature and uses FedEx® Cold Shipping Solutions in order to achieve this – helping to keep sensitive items within a specific temperature range for the duration of transit, even if travelling over extended distances.
Toby Hay was speaking to Anna-Marie MacDonald, Editor for Technology Networks