Pharmaceuticals are a matter of trust.
The service provider Vetter is one of the global leaders in its field and works for the Top Ten of the industry. The pharmaceutical company uses Lufthansa Cargo to send urgent shipments to the branch facility in the USA.
The hope of hundreds of thousands of patients is stored at the pharmaceutical services provider Vetter’s Center for Optical Control and Logistics near Ravensburg. On shelves that have been cooled down to a temperature of four degrees Celsius. The pallets and cartons there contain syringes and vials with active substances for the treatment of cancer, multiple sclerosis or anemia.
Any damage in transit of the medicinal compounds that Vetter fills up and prepares for shipment on behalf of the big pharmaceutical companies would jeopardize the therapeutic success of patients in Frankfurt, San Francisco, Nagasaki or Cape Town. So every effort is made to ensure that this does not happen. The pharmaceuticals business is all about trust. The punctual arrival of effective medicines is often vital. And the industry is global. That’s why the company Vetter, based in Ravensburg, relies on its cooperation with Lufthansa Cargo.
In addition to Care/td for dangerous substances and Cool/td for the transport of temperature-sensitive goods from the cold storage warehouse in Ravensburg, the company also uses express solutions such as td.Flash and Emergency.Solutions. Once, when a batch for the production of urgently needed material could not be released for manufacturing because of minimal quality defects, there was a risk of failure to meet a deadline for the asceptic filling of a new active substance at the branch facility in Chicago – “with substantial losses in the six-digit range,” recalls Dr. Michael Schmitz, Head of Planning and Logistics at Vetter.
Time-critical in Chicago: Emergency. Solutions saves the day.
For Vetter, the only practicable solution to the problem was Lufthansa Cargo’s Emergency.Solutions. After Vetter had obtained the goods required from a different supplier, the substitute delivery was transported to Munich and immediately flown from there to the USA. “In this case, misfortune and luck hit at the same time – the time difference between Europe and the USA gave us an additional buffer. The shipment reached Chicago on the same day, and we were able to fill the medicine as planned,” says Schmitz.
Emergency.Solutions is also the ideal choice when clients find that certain medicines are out of stock or if release samples have to be sent to external or client laboratories.
“In these cases, we’re talking about hours that matter, and we make every effort to solve the problem in the quickest possible way,” says Schmitz. An important contact partner is Michael G. Butz from Lufthansa Cargo. As Account Manager Sales at Stuttgart Airport, he supports and advises Vetter with regard to their transportation of sensitive goods. Even for someone like Butz, they are “a very special client. Trust in our capabilities and possibilities is what counts most here,” he emphasizes.
“From a purely formal angle, our contact partner is, of course, always a forwarding company. Vetter’s logistics partner at the local level is the Grieshaber Logistics Group. But we want to stay in direct contact to sort out basic questions, and, most importantly, in order to develop an emergency plan if necessary – to be prepared for all eventualities.”
The goods are shipped in special cooled containers, the Envirotainers. They are marked with individual codes that enable seamless shipment tracking as well as transport documentation. The temperatures are often recorded in duplicate, with many customers using their own temperature recording devices alongside Lufthansa Cargo’s sensors.
Extremely time-critical transportation is not the only field in which Lufthansa Cargo is an important logistics partner for Vetter, particularly with regard to its U.S. branch facility. The headquarters of the big players in the pharmaceutical industry are located in the USA. As a provider of pharmaceutical services, Vetter supports them during the development phase of new substances. “In Chicago, this primarily means development that often lasts more than ten years and passes through several stages – these are called clinical phases,” explains Schmitz.
“Many pharmaceutical and bio-tech companies choose us as partner here. Thanks to our capacities, we can take on all development phases for them – from the smallest clinical filling through to medicine approval and commercial market supply.”
Whatever is required quickly at the Chicago location is shipped as airfreight. Vetter’s Logistics Center in Ravensburg is an airfreight security zone and the company is accredited as a Known Consignor. Why? “On the one hand, numerous substances or semifinished products that we ship react very sensitively to light or X-rays. In addition, shipments would otherwise be opened during security checks at airports. That would constitute a breaking of the seal for our clients and, for product safety reasons, they would no longer be able to accept and use these supplies,” explains Schmitz.
Germ-free production: Some of Vetter’s complex injection systems consist of numerous components.
In order to guarantee product safety, Vetter’s airfreight transports are simulated beforehand, as Claudia Kloos, Logistics Manager at Vetter International explains: “We have to ensure for example that the syringe caps don’t slip because of pressure conditions during airfreight shipment, which would cause contamination. So we test this intensively ourselves beforehand. At the end of the testing process we send out a test shipment. But that’s just an extra precautionary step, which, it goes without saying, is extensively documented. At that stage we are virtually certain anyway that the product or the packaging has been put together in such a way that nothing can go wrong.”
Schmitz, Kloos and Butz know that a great deal of time and money is invested in pharmaceutical handling, but this is no comparison to the damage that would result from the negligent shipment of a piece of cargo. “Through our sustained reliability we have built up the trust of our clients. That’s why we do our utmost not to damage this trust,” says Schmitz.
The Vetter Story.
Vetter Pharma-Fertigung GmbH & Co. KG is one of the leading companies in its field and offers services to the Top Ten of the pharmaceuticals and bio-tech industry and to numerous small and medium-sized firms. Helmut Vetter founded what is now a high-tech company by opening a pharmacy in 1950. The company specializes in development support and the asceptic filling of syringes, cartridges and vials.
As a partner of pharmaceutical groups, Vetter has profound experience in processing highly complex substances. The company supports clients through all life cycles of a medicine. Vetter currently operates with 3,300 employees at nine facilities in the Ravensburg region and in Langenargen on Lake Constance. The development facility in Chicago was acquired in 2009 and began production in 2011. Vetter currently has two logistics facilities in and near Ravensburg. Due to high customer demand the capacity of the Center for Optical Control and Logistics completed in 2012 will be more than doubled in the years to come.
Martin Stollberg, Vetter Pharma GmbH