Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jonathan Koch of Covance on central labs global logistics

Today's blog features a Q&A session with President of Covance Central Laboratory Services, Jonathan Koch.   

You can see Covance's session featuring Dr. Ted Schutzbank on "Partnering for Success in Personalized Medicine" at the Clinical Business Expo taking place September 18-20 in Boston.  If you'd like to join us, register today and mention code XP1725BLOG to save 15% off the standard rate.

In relation to central lab logistics, how does Covance ensure that specimens are handled properly and monitored?

Koch: Covance Central Laboratory Services achieves proper handling and monitoring of specimens by offering visit-specific specimen collection kits and customized shipping boxes to ensure stable and convenient shipping to our laboratory or designated recipients. Strong relationships with dedicated couriers who understand our clients’ specimen shipment needs provide the utmost priority and care when transporting their specimens. We complement these relationships with internal systems such as our customized tracking system software which provides defined locations of specimens while in transit and detailed logistics processes to ensure heightened tracking and follow-through when working with referral laboratories.

Covance has central laboratory locations all over the world. Are there specific challenges associated with global logistics, and how does Covance overcome those challenges?

Koch: The key to our logistics success is Covance’s attention to day-to-day operational details. When world events occur that can cause interruptions, clinical trial delays and added cost, our series of contingency plans and strong courier relationships ensure the safety and stability of our clients’ most important assets— patient specimens.

We have a team of almost 30 dedicated logistics experts, located around the globe, tracking every one of our packages from the time it leaves the investigator site to the time it is received in our laboratories. We closely follow the progress of each shipment. Should they identify an issue that could create a delay, our experts proactively negotiate with couriers and implement an effective solution from multiple contingency options to ensure specimens continue movement to our labs on time.

What are the latest and greatest Clinical Trial logistics technologies offered by Covance?

Koch: Covance has developed a reporting tool for internal use that enables our staff to manage couriers and their use more closely than other organizations. Additional proprietary systems help manage trial logistics expenses, as well as courier performance. We share data from our systems with clients so they can see logistics performance at both project and portfolio levels, and then make any needed internal adjustments to optimize transportation spend within their budget.

In the next few months, we will launch a new Web-based shipping platform for use by U.S. investigator sites that are shipping to Covance using our U.S. default courier. The technology will enable sites to create their shipping labels from covance.com with only a couple of mouse clicks. They will never need to re-order nor will they run out of shipping labels. For the sponsor it will save money on transportation of re-supply orders. We are exploring the possibility of expanding this service to other couriers and other regions of the world.

Covance is also considering additional automation of the scheduling, tracking, and tracing of logistics activity for clinical trials. The purpose will be to provide to investigators smooth and user-friendly tools that would minimize the time spent in managing non-clinical activities and further secure the movement of patient samples to our central laboratory.

Does Covance have any experience in metrics with couriers or suppliers? If so, how can this data be effectively utilized by your clients?

Koch: We use a number of metrics to gauge the performance of all our courier partners. Examples of metrics include: On-time performance and Contract compliance. Perhaps the most important metric to our clients is the Received in Stability (RIS) metric. This metric measures our ability to get specimens into the lab within testing stability and create the data that is critical to the success of their trial.

Our clients tend to be interested in three aspects of logistics in terms of measures: Received in Stability (RIS), cost-per-shipment, and the total cost of logistics for their trials. Achieving a high RIS rate at a very competitive cost-per-shipment and total cost is a strong indicator that a company’s approach to logistics has been successful. As a result of the sound performance in these areas provided by our suite of services, our clients know that we are effectively and efficiently managing their trial’s logistics performance. As such, there is no need for clients to utilize our courier performance data to manage the couriers. They rely on our global team of logistics professionals that are charged with ensuring the highest possible standards with our courier partners. That being said, Covance often consults with our clients to share knowledge and utilize our expertise to help them select sites and couriers to ensure the best outcome for their trial and budget.

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