Providing devices for hospitals, doctor’s offices, and virtually every business in between is more complicated than selling other types of products. There are also a few factors you must be mindful of, such as how to store the equipment and ensuring they meet FDA regulations. Picking healthcare logistics providers can be difficult, but the right provider will help your company’s supply chain.
Choosing the right healthcare logistics company is a difficult task for any business. You want to make sure that you are choosing someone who not only has the necessary services but also provides specialized services that will be most beneficial to your particular needs.
This article will discuss how third-party logistics providers can help with supply chain needs and provide valuable information on what you should consider when selecting one. Below, we look at each step of the process and break down exactly what needs to be done to find the perfect medical device logistics company.
Arguably the most important aspect about a suitable healthcare logistics provider is whether or not they are in compliance with the FDA regulation and best practices regarding the handling of medical and healthcare goods, devices, and materials.
Medical devices can be as complex as MRI or X-ray machines and as simple as tongue depressors or blood glucose readers. All of these products in the healthcare industry are vital to patients and doctors, so it is necessary that supply companies have easy access to what they need.
According to the FDA, a medical device is determined by the following factors:
- It’s recognized by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia or National Formulary.
- It’s intended to help treat, prevent, or cure disease.
- It can change how the body functions without the use of chemical action or reaction.
Once you’re sure that the devices you intend on shipping are classified as medical devices by the FDA, the logistics service provider also needs to be registered with the FDA. This registration refers to both warehousing and transportation, and the 3PL needs to be registered in both areas.
If your third-party logistics provider is not registered with the FDA, you should not transport your healthcare goods with them.
The FDA registration means the company is compliant with federal laws or regulations, and more importantly, that they are competent in handling any of your healthcare goods shipments.
Medical devices can be pretty costly to replace.
So make sure you choose a logistics service provider who will handle them properly from start to finish by ensuring they have the proper paperwork and regulatory compliance.
Proper Warehousing Capabilities
Another critical factor in choosing the right healthcare logistics company is ensuring they have proper warehousing capabilities. The healthcare logistics company will need an adequately structured warehouse large enough to hold all of the items necessary for their clients.
They can also offer storage, inventory management, order fulfillment, last-mile delivery options, pick and pack operations, cross-docking facilities with other third-party providers to reduce lead times, and more.
Medical devices can range wildly in prices, so choose a third-party logistics provider that will take good care of your things. Hiring a logistics company without seeing the actual warehouse space is difficult, so ask to visit it before making any hiring decisions.
Here are some things to look for when visiting:
- How much warehouse space does the company have?
- Is there space available for your shipments?
- Are products/goods being forklifted?
- What type of equipment is in use to handle different types of products/goods?
For medical devices with electronic components, a clean and climate-controlled warehouse is needed. In addition, the warehouse should be set up logically for maximizing efficiencies and safeguarding medical devices. Warehouses may come with WMS software to help them efficiently track and keep tabs on their inventory.
The Logistics Company’s Transportation Capabilities
After determining whether the 3PL is FDA certified and can warehouse your needed goods if required, you need to ensure that they also have the proper transportation capabilities.
Healthcare logistics is a slightly different field, but there are still some basics that healthcare third-party logistics companies could provide for you. The first thing that healthcare 3PLs need to provide to you in terms of transportation is ground transportation. This includes regular delivery trucks, as well as specialized vehicles for things like refrigerated goods and mail-order medicine deliveries.
Some shippers may also be interested in air transport. These are usually more expensive, but if your product requires it, then you will need to invest in this service from them so that they can store the product in a warehouse, load it onto the plane and then deliver it to your desired destination.
Aside from shipping through different modes of transportation, the healthcare 3PL should also provide you with on-time arrival rates and incident reports. These will help ensure that your shipments will arrive at their destination on time and in perfect condition.
Likewise, you will also need to have a good relationship with your provider for the company to provide timely support and services. This is because they are not always there when something goes wrong. This can be frustrating if you don’t know who needs to handle issues that arise during transit.
Finally, the logistics provider will need to provide you with real-time tracking capabilities that can help you keep tabs on your shipments whenever you want. Shipment-relevant metrics can also help by giving you more information about your shipments and their progress.
When looking for a potential logistics provider, it’s essential to assess their financial stability and how they handle domestic transportation and international services.
Third-party logistics providers will also need specialized transportation capabilities such as inside deliveries and real-time shipment tracking. This is because some healthcare facilities might find it easier to work with a company that can offer these services than one that only provides warehousing and traditional delivery services.
Provided the medical device logistic company you’re considering fulfills orders, it might be worth wondering if they also store and ship these devices on your behalf. Order fulfillment is one of the many ways a third-party logistics provider can assist with your medical supply chain.
They have you stocked in their warehouse and then deliver to your end-user once they receive the order. This is an essential step in outsourcing your supply chain, as it saves a lot of time and money when you can have a 3PL handle all of the warehousings.
After the initial purchase, though, these third-party providers must handle your package correctly. When choosing a third-party logistics provider, it is essential to determine whether or not they can appropriately address your company’s needs.
If you have an internal staff that fulfills orders and ships them out, for example, you might be uneasy about handing over responsibility for these tasks to someone else. However, outsourcing this type of work could wind up increasing your efficiency, especially if the 3PL is offering white glove services.
Put simply, white-glove services refer to specialized services that third-party providers can offer in the form of machine installations, inside deliveries, real-time shipment tracking, and more.
In the business of medical goods and other products, there is no getting around it: dealing with returns always looms on the horizon. Often, it is more practical to have the 3PL company who initially fulfilled the order also deal with returns — otherwise known as “reverse logistics.“
A good medical devices logistics company can provide tailored solutions for handling returns so they are processed the way you would like. There are several ways, each with its benefits:
- The 3PL handles everything – If you want to focus on your business and not worry about logistics, this can be a great option. Under your instructions, a 3PL can ship back out a new product to the original customer while then disposing of, recycling or salvaging usable parts or materials. Devices that are too old or broken to be of any use for you can be recycled, as it prevents them from being redirected back to you.
- Have the returns shipped back to you – You can have your returns or excess materials shipped to the 3PL, who will then separate them into one of three categories before throwing out the garbage and sending back the rest for you to decide what can be recycled.
- No reverse logistics services – You can have the 3PL company not engage in reverse logistics: If you are looking for total control, then customers having problems with their medical devices should send them directly back to you. If companies need instant replacement products, they rely on the 3PL for that shipment while you’re taking care of anything broken or not functioning.
Moving forward, it’s crucial to find a logistics partner that can offer you the services your company needs and wants. Suppose you have specialized shipping requirements like temperature-controlled facilities or fragile materials handling, for example. In that case, you might need to look at third-party providers specializing in these types of shipments. Redbird Logistics is a 3PL provider that caters to the healthcare industry. We can accommodate your healthcare logistics needs, real-time shipment tracking, specialized services, and more.