“Building up networks and think-tanks”

In Milan, DB Schenker recently discussed trends in the pharma and healthcare sector with numerous customers, prompting us to talk with Frank Burkert, Head of Global Vertical Market Healthcare, about the innovation potential behind in-depth communication

Frank Burkert, born in 1965, has been Head of Global Vertical Market Healthcare since 2016. He began his career in the logistics industry more than 25 years ago and joined DB Schenker in 2003. Photo: DB Schenker
Frank Burkert, born in 1965, has been Head of Global Vertical Market Healthcare since 2016. He began his career in the logistics industry more than 25 years ago and joined DB Schenker in 2003. Photo: DB Schenker

Mr. Burkert, what is the idea behind the “Global Customer Event” in Milan and similar events you’ve hosted?

Communication is key! Talking and thinking about how to continuously achieve and maintain business excellence in line with applicable regulations is an important aspect of these events. The regular exchange of opinions with our customers and partners as well as early involvement in upcoming projects is one of the key factors in adding value. Events like the one in Milan help us build up networks and think-tanks. This is all the more important in view of the numerous challenges facing the industry – and thus also DB Schenker.


What are the particular challenges?

The market is growing substantially and will continue to do so at a double-digit rate. Some forecasters are even predicting a threefold increase over the next 50 years. This needs to be managed well – not least with regard to the logistics sector. In light of this development, it is more important than ever before to guarantee speed to market as well as sufficient access to required capacities and ensure the availability of an infrastructure capable of handling temperature-controlled products. Another issue is the growing significance of implantables and electroceuticals, devices that employ electrical stimulation to modify body function, and the accompanying requirements, for example, in terms of organizing the supply chain for the batteries they need. To cope with the increasing complexity we are witnessing overall, there is no getting around digitizing supply chains – which is a challenge in itself.


Let’s stay with the challenges arising from this growth: the market in Asia is seeing a lot of movement – what effect is that having?

Asia is playing an increasingly significant role. The Chinese pharmaceutical market alone has grown six times larger in just 13 years. The use of Western medicines in Asia is spreading massively. One result of this is that we have customers who have strong market shares and a sound reputation in Europe as well as in North America but who lack sufficient market access in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia. This is where we have to refine our product and service portfolio, which is not yet tailored to customers’ needs in every respect, but is, in actual fact, copied from Europe.


Another hot topic must certainly be the complex rules and regulations.

Definitely! Let’s stick to Asia: as all the countries there have their own rules and regulations, we have to comply with them all. Within the European Union, we have to abide by the Good Distribution Practice of medicinal products for human use (GDP). Whatever the region might be: the rules and regulations provide guidelines to ensure that cargo integrity is maintained throughout the supply chain and to protect the final consumer. Whenever changes occur, adjustments must be adapted accordingly. Having said that, standardization would be an important factor in managing increasing volumes. That is why it is vital to cultivate an exchange of ideas not only with the customers but with the authorities, representatives of whom also participated at the event in Milan.


Given the formidable challenges you just described, occasional events as a means of exchanging ideas will hardly suffice …

… which is why we’re not stopping there! Our slogan is “delivering solutions.” So as to provide solutions that truly hit the mark, we take a detailed look at the specific requirements of each and every customer, and always in close contact with the customers themselves. Furthermore, we focus on the “three co’s”: co-operation, co-innovation and co-development. With key anchor customers, we are running projects to drive innovation and progress by using the latest in technology, like electronic solutions that allow real-time visibility. By doing so, we create products and services that ultimately benefit all of our customers.

Speed, access, compliance: the challenges facing pharmaceutical and healthcare logistics are formidable, making it vital to cultivate an intensive exchange of ideas with customers but also with the authorities

Photo: iStock / PeopleImages