DS Smith refines its Pharma offer

As part of the implementation of serialization, Emmanuel Pascart, pharmaceutical business unit director, details the deployment of the British company in this sector for Emballages Magazine.

He doesn’t come from a packaging background, let alone healthcare. But Emmanuel Pascart is an entrepreneur whose specialty is launching structures and marketing new offerings. So when DS Smith recruited him, his mission was simple: considering the possibility of DS Smith being a player in the pharmaceutical market. He decided to create a market division. As director of the DS Smith pharmaceutical unit, he is responsible for managing the disruption of the healthcare sector and the coming into force of the European serialization standard in February 2019.

What is the current state of play in the pharmaceutical sector?

When I first came to DS Smith in 2014, I did a market study to see if there was any point in getting into phar­maceuticals. I realized that this market had been evolving enormously for the past four or five years. The market is no longer seeing double-digit growth, emerging countries are trying their hands at it, and government policies are pulling prices down. Also, over-the-counter, OTC medi­cines are strengthening, with customers purchasing their treatments directly, without going via a doctor. All this has been leading to a lot of acquisitions. We’re left with major groups who want to be active in all sectors (generics, biotech, OTCs, etc.) But above all, they want to purchase, manufacture and deliver differently.

And so in this context, does DS Smith have a role to play?

In general, packaging suppliers are regional; they’re pre­sent in five to six countries, rarely more. With bigger and bigger players, the trend is towards cost optimization, product rationalization, and just in time purchasing. Following this logic, global buyers want to reduce their numbers of suppliers in order to simplify complex supply chains. Not long ago, a factory owned its own supplier. Nowadays suppliers have to be able to meet the needs of all a group’s factories. DS Smith has over 260 plants and can manufacture a product anywhere in the world.

And yet your factories are mainly located in Europe...

That doesn’t stop us from being present worldwide. We have about twenty sites in the United States where we can make all of our products. For Asia we’ve developed a sourcing office in Shanghai, China. This allows us to support our customers on the ground. Thanks to a network of local suppliers, chosen according to ultra strict criteria, we can ensure quality levels identical to our European production. This location also is a signifi­cant advantage over our main competitors.

What does that country represent in the pharmaceuti­cal sector?

China is the future. But it’s so new that there’s no stra­tegy; groups don’t know how to address this market. This misunderstanding negatively impacts quality; the problem being, that in healthcare quality is paramount.

What solutions do you offer in the healthcare field?

DS Smith has a fairly wide range of products. This allows us to meet all the needs of the pharmaceutical industry from the start to the end of the supply chain. If we set aside primary packaging, which is not our job, we’re everywhere. We go all the way up from secondary cases to in-store presentation, along with transport. We also produce packaging line machines at our factory in Dijon (Côte-d’Or). To put it simply, outside of primary packaging, there is a DS Smith solution.

In one year’s time individual identification for phar­maceutical cases will be mandatory in Europe. How are you preparing for this?

Serialization inevitably means “datamatrix”, and there­fore data management. Therefore we’re building par­tnerships with experts in the field. We would like to offer a DS Smith platform to our customers to allow them to see the location of their products in real time. We have identified fourteen large customers for conducting workshops with them on developing this solution.

For now, we’re moving towards a modular offering. Cus­tomers will be able to use our platform or not, print their own codes or ask us to do it; our services will be rather à la carte.

Isn’t it a little late for implementation by February 2019?

No, and for two reasons. Firstly, medical devices are not part of the regulations for February 2019. However, 40% of the manufacturers of these solutions also produce drugs. I think that if we’re going to implement serializa­tion on pharmaceuticals, then it should also be on medi­cal devices. Secondly, even though the deadline is close, many laboratories are extremely late with this issue.

Pharmapack is a very high quality trade fair.

What are you going to announce at Pharmapack 2018?

It’s a small but very high quality trade fair. The 5,000 or so visitors are bosses, R&D teams, and purchasers who know exactly what they’re looking for. Our goal is clear: communicating and being visible. And for that, we’ll be launching a DS Smith website dedicated to the pharma­ceutical sector at the show.

At the same time, we have sent VIP invitations to pre-targeted partners. I think Pharmapack will be an open discussion about technical issues. This will allow us to finalize the specifications for our platform with the latest expectations from our customers. Then, our offe­ring will definitely be unveiled at CPhI in Madrid on Octo­ber 9th and 10th, 2018, a show that brings together all the actors in serialization from the pharmaceutical and medical sectors.