Supply Chain: The role of technology for Bio Pharma

– Part II

The second article about the role of technology for Bio Pharma outlines how change management, timescales and alternate partners can help to address shortages within the supply chain. 

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Edin Osmanovic
Head of Supply Chain Solutions DACH

The platform for improvement requires change management with a tech-positive mindset

Ensuring an understanding of responsibilities across the supply chain ecosystem is imperative. Until recently, Bio Pharma companies have struggled to effectively communicate and be transparent with partners. Post pandemic, organisations must ensure the supply chain is involved in the end-to-end process, right up until the drug reaches the patient, all understanding their respective roles and responsibilities.

Implementing user friendly technologies is key; technologies that everyone across the supply chain can easily access. Making sure partners are aligned, with the same mindset and roadmap to take ideas forward, is also crucial. If the Bio Pharma sector is only looking to achieve maximum benefit at the lowest costs, ultimately margins will be too stretched. Small steps, such as focusing on a certain segment of the supply chain, to make inroads into a process that generates value, may well provide the company with the ability to move an idea forward.

Above all, the industry needs to manage any resistance to change, ensure senior management support and buy-in, and where possible they should share examples of where supply partners have had success.

Coping with shorter timescales for clinical trials

When asked whether supply chain shortages in pharma production could impact supply chain issues in relation to clinical trials and, if so, how such impacts can be mitigated, all agreed that with clinical supply it is often hard to know what raw materials are needed to supply the study. In fact, the time frame for the whole process has shrunk from years to months.

Additionally, where tests were once only extended to local populations, now they must scale to global populations. This makes it hard to predict requirements. However, those in charge of production should implement and adapt their raw material strategy to acquire similar materials as back up. By doing so, they will always have raw materials to hand and an ability to react quickly and mitigate risk. It was noted that if there is a contract manufacturing organisation (CMO) undertaking drug development through to drug manufacturing on behalf of the Bio Pharma company, this can be more challenging to achieve.

One participant said, “we have a production plan only for drugs substances, we rely on CMOs who want a forecast from us six months ahead of time. It is very hard to request additional material.” This is why it is important to build a partnership with the CMO with umbrella contracts that are not  product specific, but focus on capacity reservation. As long as products are similar; this provides a fallback. Ultimately, if you want to mitigate the risk of a lack of inventory you must have a strong relationship with the CMO.

Agree alternate supply sources

Likewise, it has become more important to have alternate partners in the pipeline in case there is an issue, so the Bio Pharma company can avoid any potential risk in the supply chain. Often the company is susceptible to the partners’ supply chain issues and, in some instances, it will manage the partner’s supply chain for them to de-risk any supply shortages or other challenges in their chain. To actively address this issue, Bio Pharma companies should explore alternative supply sources over a period of time.

Part III is about to follow.

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