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Why data holds the key to unlocking your supply chain potential. And how all it takes is sharing

By Iqubal Singh Pannu, Senior Solutions Consultant, AEB (International) Ltd 

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Pharmaceutical supply chains across the globe are tremendously diverse and involved workflows and procedures are highly complex – from manufacturing and processing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (own or contract) to packaging and distribution of products (wholesale or direct to pharmacy).

Paired with the strict regulatory framework that governs the industry and the highly fragmented and competitive landscape of its supply chains, it’s now a much more challenging environment to navigate than ever before. This applies to all types of pharma businesses including, but not limited to, API suppliers, contract manufacturers, originators, generic product suppliers, pharmacies, and wholesalers.

Even before Amazon entered the market, it’s become clear that modern pharma supply chains not only need to run like clockwork, they also need to operate faster, cheaper, safer, and more transparent now – while demonstrating resilience and agility at the same time. So, what’s the best strategy?

Digital status quo of pharma supply chains

Pharma businesses cannot afford delays at any point in the supply chain – and high performance in these complex ecosystems depends on effectively collaborating supply chain partners. This includes passing materials, products, and associated data and documentation smoothly and timely back and forth the entire value chain. 

To achieve this, automated real-time exchange of data in line with the actual movements of physical goods has become essential. It relies on comprehensive network integration of involved processes and IT systems beyond organisational boundaries – in both the physical and the digital world.

This means that pharma products and all involved materials and equipment must be accompanied by data consistently throughout their complicated lifecycles without gaps – from end to end. It’s a basic prerequisite for supply chains to deliver on-time performance and add to competitiveness and profitability.

But the digital status quo of such integrated collaboration in supply chains across the sector is severely lagging behind. As one of the reasons for this, pharma executives cite too many partners and intermediaries across their supply chains. Resulting competition aspects and the general lack of communication between them further complicates the process – obscuring and preventing visibility and effective collaboration.

What needs to change immediately and how

The game is changing in today’s technology-fuelled world with new business models meeting changing consumer demand. Calls for more flexibility and transparency on pharma pricing and delivery options can no longer be ignored.

And new players like Amazon – known for its capability and performance in goods distribution and data transparency levels – add new dimensions to an old problem in this fragmented sector.

The key for pharma businesses within supply chain networks now lies in overcoming current obstacles and tackling supply chain collaboration, integration, and transparency comprehensively. Onboarding all relevant partners in the integration process is vital, as are clear processes for the collaboration and defined standards for all relevant data exchanges.

Using one single set of data for each movement of materials in the value chain is an important objective for the definition of system requirements. It forms the basis for efficient real-time sharing of secure data. Powerful visibility platforms based on cloud technology facilitate this process, making such data sets for relevant objects readily available for all authorised parties of the supply chain – at any given time.

Tangible benefits and win-win synergies

Benefits of the effective deployment of cloud technology for visibility and collaboration go far beyond establishing much needed real-time transparency. Such solutions also accommodate an automated flow of data that in turn triggers further automated follow-up workflows along the supply chain in the relevant processing systems.

Empowering all involved parties to enrich relevant, shared data with more information and (paperless) documentation in line with respective compliance requirements in such an automated way significantly slices processing times and operating costs on all sides.

This encompasses all standard data of relevant materials from order to delivery, as well as new data requirements that may come up, such as, for example, latest unique barcode requirements to allow veracity authentication by the MHRA in accordance with the EU Falsified Medicines Directive.

How sharing pays off for all mission objectives

Consolidating the supply chain “under one roof” and driving automation delivers a wide range of benefits including, but not limited to, reduced risks and overheads, greater innovation, assurance of supply and compliance, tighter quality control, and better local availability of goods via regional distribution sites on a global scale.

Integrated supply chain collaboration thus leads to improved patient supply, lower risks and more profit all around. It’s not an overstatement to say that data – or better yet: a shared, automated and consistent flow of relevant data – holds the key to creating efficient, compliant and demand-driven pharma supply chains, ultimately increasing profitability and continuing to deliver on the sector’s mission to improve lives through healthcare in a changing marketplace.

Iqubal Singh Pannu, Senior Solutions Consultant, AEB (International)

Supply chain software makes it happen. Contact us to discuss your requirements: 

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