Services for distribution of tissue engineering products and therapies
Purpose ‐ Tissue engineering (TE) offers treatments for chronic, life threatening, degenerative illnesses and possibilities for restoring cellular or organ functions that have been lost due to injuries or hereditary conditions. However, a prerequisite for the use of TE products as part of future therapies is the development of strategies for safe and efficient supply chain management and versatile services spanning from product development to a follow-up period of possibly decades. The present study aims to explore the future needs for services and extended supply chains for safe delivery of health care, procurement, distribution and long-term follow-up of TE products and therapies. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Studies in operational disciplines and coordination systems for different types of supply chains and service networks are used to formulate a framework for developing services throughout product lifecycle. Case examples of TE products are presented to demonstrate complexity, microbial risks, services and long-term follow-up. The role of logistics and the necessary services are identified for products classified into experimental, therapy and standard products. Findings ‐ The paper finds that, through the stages, the importance of logistics increases from an enabler to becoming a strategic tool, emphasizing logistics requirements in establishing a viable TE supply chain. New dimensions to existing service operations frameworks are needed where proactive tissue sourcing, long follow-up periods, short shelf life and biological risks call for enforcing flexible services with tissue banks, detailed tracing, authorization and regulation. Originality/value ‐ The paper presents the discovery of the logistics services and service institutions that will become imperatives for the future success of TE products and therapies.