Surfing the Waves of Mega Trends in the Kuehne+Nagel Healthcare Industry Vertical


In an interview with Marcello Ferrari, VP Global Head of Customer Development, Healthcare Contract Logistics at Kuehne+Nagel, Julia Swales, Senior Editor at Ti asked him about the current state of the healthcare industry vertical. Marcello Ferrari talked about the macro perspective – market trends, the strategies they apply and how they respond to the dynamics of the market; the micro perspective – increasingly selective expectations from companies, customer enablement and supply chain orchestration; and the future, most specifically, super-tailored drugs and what’s being done to respond to that.

In 2022, Kuehne+Nagel Contract Logistics reported a 39% share of its business in pharma and biopharma, 49% in medical technology and 12% in consumer healthcare. The healthcare industry vertical is healthy from a macro perspective, with good growth over the last few years and further good annual growth expected.

In the Kuehne+Nagel 2026 Healthcare overall roadmap, there is an organic projected growth of the industry of 5-6% per annum, while for Contract Logistics, the projected growth is in the two-digits region and the vertical has demonstrated itself to be recession proof over time. Geopolitics haven’t impacted this vertical as much as others.  

There are some very clear and positive global trends, which provide good opportunities:

  • The big investments in biopharma, with new technologies and new molecules. This is revolutionary.
  • The specialisation of consumer healthcare, which has been carved out from big pharma.
  • The global expansion of medical technology and devices.
  • The weight management or obesity management wave.

The last trend is an example of mass market volumes for products which were until very recently, a bit of a niche. A big scale up is needed, particularly from the supply chain and manufacturing perspective. There is one drug for diabetes, which has a very significant impact on weight loss. Now there is a new range of medicines and drugs based on this for obesity management. They are cold chain products hence the handling is rather complex, so it is a big challenge for the industry. Kuehne+Nagel is working very closely with customers to provide solutions to manage these mass market volumes for very specialised drugs. As this is a new wave, the key players in the market are very focused on the US as the entry market and Europe will follow closely behind.

Because of the mega trends, and the super vertical specialisation, customers’ expectations are very much focused on having fine-tuned expertise for their particular needs. For consumer healthcare companies, this is now more in the space of the FMCG mass market. Competitors in biopharma are focused on vaccines, or deep-frozen products. Kuehne+Nagel claim to focus on the very particular journey of all their customers, through understanding their strategy, then working with them to come up with a solution, really focusing on their pain points and the support they need. This is pre-positioning, so being seen as the enabler rather than an executor.

In addition to providing the required logistics services, Kuehne+Nagel orchestrates the customers end-to-end supply chain, through its Integrated Logistics or 4PL part of the business. In healthcare, eight of the major global pharma companies are Kuehne+Nagel customers and it does the end-to-end supply chain orchestration for them. It is an overarching governance with one point of contact. According to Kuehne+Nagel, this is one of the main values customers see, as they don’t have to negotiate in an isolated way the single changes that are required to unlock certain improvements in every part of the supply chain. Kuehne+Nagel takes care of harmonising and implementing these across the different parts of the supply chain.

Looking into the future, the most exciting development is personalised medicine, based on the technology developed and boosted by the COVID vaccines. There’s been heavy investment in that space. Soon it will be possible to create a drug specifically for one patient. From a logistics perspective it requires new or redesigned services and direct to patient deliveries, rather than using the typical distribution channels. That’s very exciting, and it’s going to be the next revolution in pharma. The pharma companies are competing neck to neck – many of the biopharma and big pharma companies are fully dedicated to this. It will be interesting to see who gets there first, over the next 5 to 10 years.

Author: Julia Swales

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