Zuellig Pharma achieves on-time drug delivery with Blackbay

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman December 16, 2015
New mobile applications, in simplified Chinese, are helping delivery drivers in Hong Kong and Macau get medicines to patients more efficiently.

If you’re a logistics specialist serving the healthcare industry in Asia-Pacific, multilingual capabilities are going to be a must-have when it comes to the mobile apps with which you equip your delivery drivers.

In the case of Zuellig Pharma, the search for a provider capable of offering mobile apps in simplified Chinese for its Hong Kong-based division was not the smoothest of journeys. And since the company operates in a total of 13 countries across the region, it knew it wouldn’t be too long before it would require apps in other languages, too.

So when Andi Umbricht, chief operating officer of the company’s Hong Kong operations, met with executives from Blackbay, a UK-based supplier of mobile applications for logistics companies, he was impressed by the company’s willingness to take Zuellig’s multilingual needs on board. Blackbay didn’t at that time, offer a Chinese version, he says:

...but this was one of the promises they made to use, when we started to talk, because they knew it was a concern for us. And during the course of our project, they delivered an upgrade to their system that offered this capability. It took a while for them to upgrade. It took two rounds of work to complete on it, but we worked with Blackbay quite intensively and the company now fully capable of providing us with several languages - so we will soon be able to do this in Vietnamese and Thai, too.

Andi Umbricht, COO
Andi Umbricht, COO

Security, too, is a big concern for a company like Zuellig. The bulk of its business involves transporting drugs between big-name pharmaceutical companies - Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline are all clients - and the hospitals, clinics and pharmacies that administer medicines to patients. Says Umbricht:

Supply chain visibility is of top importance. You need to know that these products are kept secure on their journey, arrive at their destination safely and are handed over in the right condition and, in many cases, on time - because some of the deliveries we transport are needed very urgently by individual patients.

Here, again, Blackbay turned out to be the best provider for Zuellig, with its real-time tracking capabilities, particularly during the last mile of the delivery journey. And if Zuellig requires electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) capabilities in future, it has the security of knowing that Blackbay’s Delivery Connect product already handles this.

But that’s not to say that everyone at Zuellig was completely bowled over by Delivery Connect. Some of the delivery drivers, by Umbricht’s own admission, took some convincing:

The first rejection you always have [with this kind of project] is that drivers feel that you want to check up on them - but that really wasn’t the point for me. I had no intention of using Delivery Connect for that purpose.

We had to have a lot of change-management sessions, where we explained the customer service element here - that we would be a better partner to our customers with this kind of technology. But we also explained the benefits that the drivers themselves would experience. After all, they know already how hard they work, but they also know how much of their time gets wasted by last-minute changes to customers orders and delivery routes.

We were able to show that this would be a tool that could actively demonstrate their work processes to management. More visibility, we explained, would be good for them and good for customers, as well as good for the company, and paperless operations would help them to be more efficient. In fact, they now get a lot more praise for the work they do, as their operations are much more transparent to management now.

Hong Kong and Macau were chosen as the test site for Delivery Connect, because they represent:

...a small, contained area, with not too many out-of town deliveries.

But the plans are to roll out Blackbay’s technology much further afield and the learnings from this pilot project will be extremely valuable to Zuellig managers in other regions, Umbricht believes:

Now that our implementation’s done here, it’s time for us to harvest the benefits. Already, we’re faster, leaner, more organised and more structured. The whole implementation process helped us remove some legacy supply-chain issues that we had, take a new look at our processes and redesign the way we do things - which was, at times, a bit clunky. There are many other areas of our business that will benefit in similar ways.

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