The pandemic has accelerated technology adoption cross sectors, driving disruptive innovation through tech enabled solutions. The Medical supply chain is one such area that has embraced several tech enabled solutions in order to address the unique demands during the first and second wave of the pandemic. From life-saving medicines, and essential neutraceuticals to oxygen concentrates and surgical materials vital for COVID Frontline workers and doctors, to handling the effective supply chain for temperature sensitive vaccines across the nook and corner of the country, the Indian Pharmaceutical and healthcare supply chain has been a strong pillar in the fight against the pandemic. Additionally, driven by the rise in medical and pharma supply chain, the national cold chain sector is expected to grow at over 20% CAGR by 2025, as per a recent report by JLL.
Listed here are 5 key technologies trends that are increasingly changing the Medical Supply Chain in the country and are set to shape the sector, over the coming years.
1. Big Data: Like in the other sectors, Big Data in the medical supply chain has been disrupting traditional practicing and helping introduce solutions that are smarter, cost effective and enhance speed and efficiency of the supply chain network. By leveraging data analytics, blockchain, and AI, one can forecast demands and plan for consolidation of shipments based on special transit infrastructure requirements, like temperature control needs, location and urgency. Additionally, this data can also be used for route optimisation, to ensure the fastest and most cost-effective route can be undertaken for the shipment.
2. Blockchain: This is one technology that has rapidly gained acceptance and popularity across sectors, in a short span of time. What started out as a crypto currency infrastructure, is now playing a vital role in not just BFSI but also healthcare and medical supply chain technology. During the pandemic and afterwards for vaccine supply chains, there has been an extensive network of national and international networks where shipments are set to change hands at multiple locations before actually reaching their destination. With blockchain, it is now possible to monitor, streamline, and build an efficient and integrated supply chain that is well regulated, throughout its journey. It also helps build transparency to ensure that all the mandatory standards for transportation of medical supplies are adequately followed, at each step of the journey. Blockchain enabled virtual ledgers help keep tabs on the movement of the shipment at every node across the network, registering its condition and handling, making it easy to spot, report and rectify any mishandling or delay.
3. Drone Deliveries: Although recently approved for use in India, Drone based deliveries are being adopted, although with caution, across the country. With faster turnaround time and less dependency on human intervention, Drones are also offering accuracy and reliability, traceability, letter instances of errors, and facilitating contact less deliveries, making them ideal modes for last mile deliveries. Although there are a few challenges, the use of drones for delivery of vaccines and medicines, will be a game changer in improving accesses to medicines and vaccines, in time.
4. AI, Robotics and Internet of Things (IoT): A large part of an efficient supply chain is storage and warehouse management, especially temperature controlled/ cold storage facilities. These have been of vital significance in the case of pharma and medical supply chains, especially for plasma and vaccines. An integrated Warehouse automation system, that utilises the best of AI, Robotics and IoT enabled devices, can help monitor the accurate temperature controlled storage environment, drive energy optimisation and enable workers to keep stock, log arrival and departure of shipments, predict and report any probable damage and help keep the warehouse efficiently functioning, 24×7, with little human interference. AI and IoT have also been implemented in tracking and monitoring movement of shipment, real time updates and route optimisation.
5. Cloud Computing: This is perhaps one of the most underrated technology innovation that has helped businesses and people across the globe, to work from a safe remote location, thus keeping the wheel of money, moving. In line with this thought, Cloud computing is also hugely being leveraged by the logistic and supply chain companies, so as to enable employees across a complicated and vast network, to connect and engage, on a safer platform. Cloud computing enabled technology infrastructure is also the base of all emerging technology applications, and thus making it a vital cornerstone in the digital adoption of the modern supply chain.
While all of the above factors are key drivers for growth of the sector, largely brought about due to the global pandemic, the renewed push for manufacturing and vocal for local initiatives are going further to ensure there is a continuous impetus for growth, in the post COVID era.
By Cyrus Katagara, Partner – Jeena & Company.
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