The agile pharmaceutical supply chain: connectivity and alignment between stakeholders


In an (almost) post-pandemic world, the varied progress of the pharmaceutical industry on the path to digitization has revealed a range of new strengths in some sectors, as well as serious ongoing challenges in others. The sluggish and single-threaded nature of the traditional pharmaceutical supply chain was quickly revealed as an Achilles’ heel in the face of major disruptions from the pandemic, especially when rolling out breakthrough drugs.

At the opening roundtable of the LogiPharma 2022 conference on April 5, pharmaceutical vice presidents from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and others highlighted their keys to delivering vaccines in record time while navigating unprecedented volatility. . Key to this success was their ability to build vaccine supply chains that excelled in responsiveness, risk management and resilience, thus differentiating themselves from their peers.

Today, the industry continues to experience the shock waves of the pandemic combined with the effects of geopolitical politics, extreme weather and other factors. The current outlook suggests that ongoing disruptions are the new normal. Embracing this paradigm requires personal reflection on whether your supply chain is ready to weather the storm. This assessment is a critical inflection point to recalibrate strategy, strengthen existing architectures, and aim for the next wave of digitization to ensure agility and resilience in an uncertain future. We dive deeper into this topic specifically for production planning in our recently published expert interview.

What needs to be done?

The reality of most digital infrastructure in pharma today is a landscape of isolated data silos in both a company’s internal business processes and those that intersect with external partners. It stands to reason that connecting these islands into a seamless framework for integrated data sharing and decision making requires a unified software solution. However, many companies lack this unified solution for their interdependent business processes, often due to mergers, splits of business divisions, or a lack of digital network leadership and coordination. There is an emerging consensus that pharma technology leaders must urgently address this issue by implementing a transparent data infrastructure on which to build integrated business planning and planning.

Connectivity and synchronization of internal systems, their data and work processes can be achieved through internal standardization. This avoids misalignments of offline isolated models (digital twins) and achieves increased automation to eliminate human error. The net result is a supply chain that offers agility balanced with risk management and resilience.

The pharmaceutical industry is lagging behind others when it comes to digitization, especially sharing data outside the firewall. Hesitation may persist over the regulatory implications of sharing patient data, the potential to compromise data security, or even the fear of exposing valuable information to competitors. However, there is a mutual benefit to sharing the right data with the right partners, especially when feedback loops are built into this exchange.

During a separate panel discussion at LogiPharma dedicated to digital stakeholder onboarding, Frédéric Zwahlen, SVP Global Technical Operations & Supply Chain at Vifor Pharma, highlighted the fact that you only get the visibility you are willing to. share. This underscores the reality that sharing data across the pharmaceutical supply chain is not a digital problem but rather a relationship problem. The adoption of data sharing must be led, if not mandated, by innovative pharmaceutical companies throughout their supply chains to enable the deployment of AI and ML technologies that generate new insights.

Connecting relevant internal data to and from external partner systems is the only way to achieve the connectivity network needed to realize the promise of Pharma 4.0. This data infrastructure provides the foundation to build executive control towers for real-time visibility and insights across the entire pharmaceutical value chain network.

As seen with recent successes in vaccine supply chains, the use of standardization, connectivity, integration, and control towers provides the infrastructure needed to build agility, risk management and resilience. Pharmaceutical manufacturers who adopt these capabilities will set their businesses apart, as their ability to manage ongoing disruptions with flexibility and speed will become an embedded core competency.

Register for our next webinar, Ride the roller coaster of pharmaceutical production planningto learn more.


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