Are You Ready to Join the Circular Supply Chain?

It may be time to revisit how your company produces and delivers products as consumers and retailers become more environmentally aware and shift to a circular supply chain.

According to National Geographic, about 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into the oceans each year, which is the equivalent of putting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world. Millions of animals are killed from entanglement or starvation because of microplastics, which are ingested by fish and block their digestive tracts or pierce their organs. A new Scientific Reports study even suggests that the fish that end up on your dinner plate could expose humans to microplastics and their harmful toxins, such as heavy metals and organic pollutants.

Plastic is just one type of waste that, if not recycled, reused, or remanufactured, ends up in landfills and pollutes the air, land, and water. Unfortunately, developing recycling initiatives, managing groundwater contamination, and complying with environmental regulations drains a lot of cash from municipalities and taxpayers. The good news is that companies and consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and shifting from a traditional linear supply chain to a circular one.

Four Things to Consider Before Kicking Off Your Sustainability Project

⦁ Circular inputs: How can you change your materials to ones that are renewable or recyclable, and how can you use fewer materials in the initial manufacturing process?

⦁ Product design: How can you design products to last longer or perhaps to be used in a sharing system? How can you design products that can be easily disassembled at the end-of-use stage without expending immense labor or energy?

⦁ Process design: When looking at your processes, how can you make the product with renewable or recycled materials?

⦁ Circular flows: At the end of use, how do you recover materials or products so they can be used again?

Get More Value from End-of-Use Products

What options exist for a product at the end of its use? Is it fit for reuse or resale? If it can’t be resold, maybe it can be repaired, refurbished, or remanufactured.

⦁ Processing inputs: Look at your processing inputs, such as water and energy. Are you bringing them back into the process? If not, could you?

⦁ Waste consolidation: Could you consolidate your waste flows with other companies in the area? This will turn a cost into a revenue stream as you collect more waste volume, and by bailing it up, you would make it worth something to a waste buyer.

⦁ Offcuts: If you are in discrete manufacturing, what are you doing with your offcuts? Could they be used to build another product, or is there an opportunity to sell offcuts to other companies?

Greening Your Supply Chain With B2B Automation

Today’s businesses are under increasing pressure to develop more sustainable supply chains, typically part of a broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. With reducing carbon emissions a cornerstone of many CSR-related programs, developing greener logistics and supply chain networks is key.
Replacing manual, paper-based processes with fully automated systems that use electronic business-to-business (B2B) transactions is one major step toward a greener supply chain. Removing thousands of paper-based transactions can amount to a significant sustainable saving across an extended enterprise.
Companies usually send electronic B2B transactions across a cloud-based business network that connects with their global trading partner community. The business network effectively exchanges documents in electronic form—including purchase orders, invoices, advanced ship notices, and order acknowledgements—regardless of industry or business process.

How to Detox the Pharma Supply Chain

Advances in technology, new regulations, and more personalized medicine can make managing pharmaceutical supply chains a tough pill to swallow. Successful supply chains leverage new IT, share information, and embrace change.

In 2018, Amazon acquired PillPack, an online pharmacy catering to individuals who take multiple daily prescription drugs. “The acquisition signals the importance of e-commerce as a new retail channel for prescription drugs,” says Kaushal Dave, global vice president of solutions development and customer engagement with Aera Technology, which supplies real-time cognitive automation.
The emergence of e-commerce is one of several changes reshaping the pharmaceutical supply chain. Others include technology advances such as greater deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, changing regulations, and the drive to more personalized medicine.
Successfully navigating these changes will be key to effective supply chain and logistics management. “Due to the critical nature of the pharmaceutical goods being transported, supply chain excellence is critical,” notes Alisha Greenwald, senior director of client strategy with BlueGrace Logistics, a third-party logistics provider.


How can pharmaceutical companies tackle these challenges and continue to thrive? Technology will play a critical role. For instance, unit load devices (ULDs) enable pharma companies and distributors to closely monitor their shipments’ location and status while in transit.
“Today’s tracking devices go beyond GPS,” says Leandro Moreira, director of the Health Technologies Distribution Alliance (HTDA), and vice president of YourWay, an integrated biopharmaceutical supply chain solutions provider.
In addition to location, ULDs can provide information on a product’s exposure to light, shock, or vibration. Some devices can tell if a package is positioned horizontally or vertically.

Pharma Cold Chain Heats Up

The $3.6-billion market for temperature-controlled packaging within the pharmaceutical industry is expected to enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 8% between 2018 and 2028, according to business intelligence firm Future Market Insights.
Cold chain technology is changing along with the market. One example is the greater deployment of “cold-chain dollies,” or temperature-controlled containers within airports located where temperature extremes occur. These can maintain the cold chain from the time packages are offloaded until they’re placed in refrigerated warehouses.
Advances in phase change materials (PCMs) also make temperature control easier. PCMs absorb and release thermal energy during melting and heating to maintain temperatures.
PCM technology improvements enable the materials to better maintain temperatures without becoming so bulky the container has little space for the actual product.
Drones are increasingly being deployed for last-mile delivery, especially in places that lack adequate transportation infrastructure, helping move products to their destination more quickly. A shortened trip means less chance of changes to the shipment’s temperature.