- UPS is planning to launch a new offering for tracking healthcare-related shipments in the first quarter of next year called UPS Premier that will use Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to track packages, according to a press release from the company.
- UPS is creating a new unit within its operations, Healthcare and Life Sciences, that will oversee this project and other healthcare operations. UPS Premier will use on-package sensors to track items throughout the logistics network and will give priority to "time-dependent and temperature-sensitive packages to help increase on-time reliability," the company explained.
- "With these technologies and processing plans, we will have greater flexibility to protect these urgent packages along the 'chain of custody,' provide contingency solutions and ensure best-in-class service reliability," UPS CEO David Abney said in a statement when the project was announced.
Abney spoke about UPS Premier for the first time on the company's earnings call last month.
"The sensor technologies and special handling plans provide a high-value solution for great visibility and special contingency actions for critical packages," he said on the call.
The ability to trace medical shipments will move from a nice-to-have to a requirement in 2023. This is when the Food and Drug Administration 's new serialization regulations will take effect. The rules will require makers of prescription drugs to have "an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace" the products they sell in the United States, according to the FDA.
"Efficient inventory management is one of the most important healthcare supply chain components," Abney said in a statement.
The FDA is looking at multiple ways to improve traceability in this space, including blockchain. The agency began a pilot project earlier this year to study potential solutions. The FDA's goal is to keep legal drugs off the black market and prevent counterfeit drugs from entering legitimate distribution channels.
Abney spoke about healthcare alongside e-commerce and international operations as an area of potential growth for the company on the latest earnings call.
Flight Forward, UPS' drone subsidiary, is also focusing its early operations on the healthcare space. It recently announced plans to work with CVS Pharmacy, AmerisourceBergen and Kaiser Permanente to deliver healthcare supplies via drone.