How to Improve Your Pharma Supply Chain and Delight Your Customers
By Forrest Hobbs
Any supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and this is particularly true with the pharmaceutical industry, which relies on a complex global network of suppliers, logistics providers and manufacturing organizations to get their products to the end consumer. The pharma sector also operates in one of the most regulated industries in the world; they must contend with strict regulations and requirements such as batch level traceability and a carefully controlled cold chain logistics infrastructure, which is a key component in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
One of the biggest cold chain challenges has been the lack of visibility that leads to inaccurate predictions, poor planning, delayed decision making, higher risks and loss of business. To overcome these challenges, meet customer expectations and succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, pharmaceutical companies can greatly benefit from end-to-end visibility in their supply chain.
Pharmaceutical supply chains are embracing digital visibility platforms that are based on technology such as sensors, GPS, smart beacons, and a myriad of other networking and monitoring systems. This change in operational model signals a dramatic shift which is driving end-to-end visibility, connecting every aspect of the supply chain, including delivery information, business planning, operations, and the entire pharmaceutical supplier network. Bringing all this data together equips cold chain leaders with a single source of truth in the moment to make the right decisions.
Here are three basic steps you can take to start the process of transforming your cold chain and delighting your customers:
Conduct an honest assessment of your supply chain and identify issues that are related to gaps in your organization’s supply chain. Knowing where your visibility gaps are and what impact they have on your ability to delight customers can help you focus your investments on top areas. Clearly, missing data sources can lead to visibility gaps. In addition, do some third-party benchmarking, and be sure to get alignment with your senior executives on what you need to do to deal with those visibility gaps.
Identify what stage of supply chain maturity your organization is in. There are five stages of supply chain maturity, as defined by Gartner: Stage 1 – React, Stage 2 – Anticipate, Stage 3 – Integrate, Stage 4 – Collaborate, Stage 5 – Orchestrate. These five stages also have direct impacts on the visibility maturity of a company, depending on what stage of supply chain maturity the company is in. Let’s take a look at these impacts:
Stage 1 – React. Companies in the react stage are focused on reacting to events faster to reduce waste.
Stage 2 – Anticipate. In this stage, application-based status and alerts can be analyzed to identify specific areas that can be improved.
Stage 3 – Integrate. In the integration stage, companies can continuously monitor products at the conveyance level (tote, pallet, crate, etc.) through each step of the product journey. Function-based product status and alerts allow for information to flow across all businesses in the supply chain.
Stage 4 – Collaborate. Companies at this stage benefit from a demand-driven value network, as alerts, status data, and events are visible across the end-to-end supply chain. At this stage, companies can realize a 50-60% increase in top and bottom-line growth, as well as increased savings and improved capabilities across the entire business.
Stage 5 – Orchestrate. In the orchestrate stage, companies benefit from complete visibility into customer operations, logistics, manufacturing plants, and supplier operations. Information on demand and supply are constantly visible, including product condition information. As a company’s visibility maturity increases in the orchestrate stage, they can leverage increased predictive and prescriptive analytics for faster decision-making.
Leverage AI, machine learning and IoT to enhance visibility and eliminate supply chain dark spots. Over the past year, we’ve seen a 500% growth in demand for IoT technology and data reporting tools embedded within supply chains; the entire ecosystem is being pushed into deploying digital tools such as visibility platforms. Given the onslaught of IoT sensors and AI, there is a big opportunity to digitally reform cold chains.
Successful cold chains leverage a visibility platform so that they can monitor the location, temperature and condition of each asset or process in real time, providing cold chain managers with dynamic control and virtually endless monitoring capabilities. IoT technology not only creates greater transparency across supply chain networks, but it enables pharmaceutical companies and cold chain logistics partners to control the external environment and make decisions in real time, preventing damage and waste before it occurs.
As an example, Cloudleaf partnered with CSafe to offer their customers a world-class visibility asset tracking system that combines CSafe’s state-of-the-art thermal shipping solutions with our Digital Visibility Platform. Armed with real-time visibility into the world’s most critical medical shipments, CSafe customers and support staff are delighted to have 24/7 access to monitor every shipment and intervene if necessary.
Cloudleaf’s Digital Visibility Platform draws on a growing set of over 400 APIs, so the platform works with legacy systems and sensor devices you already have, while also supporting the best new IoT devices to digitize your supply chain. Applying analytics and AI/ML to location, condition and contextual data delivers continuous real-time visibility throughout the supply chain ecosystem, so your organization can:
- Eliminate supply chain blind spots
- Anticipate and avoid disruptions
- Drive increased revenues
- Eliminate waste
By using a digital visibility platform to improve the customer experience, pharma companies can not only increase satisfaction but also boost sales and market share. By shifting from reactive problem solving to anticipating and preventing issues, you’ll delight customers while improving important metrics across your business.