The pharmaceutical supply chain has often been criticized over the last decade. The reason? Lack of transparency. This lack of visibility to stakeholders has led to counterfeit products and impotent medicines placing the patient’s health and safety in jeopardy.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 10% of the global drug trade is comprised of counterfeit drugs. In another report, about half of the global vaccines are wasted every year because of temperature control, logistics, and shipment-related issues. All this can partly blame the risk that comes with a complicated and compromised pharma supply chain.
To minimize such risk, the supply chain industry has seen the implementation of new rules and regulations to counterfeiting, delays, wastage, and patient safety issues. The European Union (EU) established the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), while The United States created the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). The WHO, in partnership with UNICEF, formed the Effective Vaccine Store Management (EVSM).
Pharma companies heed the call for improvement. The solution? Digitalization. Improved supply chain visibility across levels of stakeholders is a good sign of a company’s well interconnected digital solutions.
What Makes Pharma Supply Chain Unique?
Product Quality – Most pharma products are time and temperature-sensitive biological substances. The vials, ampoules, and other consignments holding these substances are also fragile. Thus, a different kind of handling is required.
Product Availability – Speed is vital in the delivery of most pharma products, as they lose potency and effectivity over time.
Cost and Risk Reduction – Low-volume and high-cost consignments or the opposite, overheads, and overspends should still be minimized, especially when aiming for a particular profit goal.
Liabilities and Litigation – Pharma products undergo a tightly controlled process. A lot of them are thermo- and photosensitive and can go spoiled along the process. Making sure no substandard products come along the healthy ones is a regulated system.
These are the factors that make the pharma supply chain differ from other supply chain industries. But these factors are also what makes the pharma industry lacking visibility. And only can these be addressed by applying digital and IoT solutions to the supply chain.
Improved pharma chain visibility plays a vital role in improving customer loyalty and brand reputation. But it’s more difficult than you think. Logistics professionals still lack the ability to improve visibility due to a lack of quality data and reliance on manual tracking processes.
Globalization made it even more difficult. As marketplaces become even more complex, so does suppliers’ networks become even more intricate. Overheads become the norm and an expected cost in the business. But it doesn’t have to be. The pharma companies’ best bet is to invest in technology and data-driven insights that are derived from a digitized supply chain.
A better supply chain visibility can improve predictability and efficiency. All people in the organization can see this improvement. From the executives who watch share prices rise and fall to the sales and marketing team who concerns about exceeding annual targets.
How a Pharma Supply Chain Benefits from Digitizing?
Digitizing the pharma supply chain is the movement of both integrated sequence and production solutions to create a more visible supply stream across each touchpoint of the value chain. The result is a more responsive and transparent supply chain that can adapt to industry-known and unknown variables like inventory shortages, overages, order changes, and resource availability.
Digitalization is equipped with new technologies like big data, cloud computing, and other data storage and management platforms. These can aid companies in having a more efficient data gathering, reporting, and analytics capabilities. It means pharma companies can analyze and share large amounts of data in real-time to provide better planning strategies.
Steps in Digitizing the Supply Chain
- Understanding the supply chain
Even though you’re playing on the same field as a pharma company, not all supply chain is the same. And so, the first step is the assessment of your unique supply chain. Having done that, you can now start to look for IoT companies that can work for you, someone that can understand your business processes, your supply chain processes.
- Improving the Supply Chain
Use the IoT devices and monitoring tools provided to start collecting data. Then, these data can provide information to your supply chain.
- Digitizing the Supply Chain
When you have all the data you need, you can continue building infrastructure that can transform data into alerts, last-mile insights, inventory (JIT) assessment, manufacturing needs, transportation routes, and proof of delivery. A digitized infrastructure will improve predictive data and will result in improved performance.
The supply chain industry is forged to take part in this information age. A company that thrives in this era relies on the accuracy and availability of data and reporting. Using these, they can create better plans and programs. A pharma supply chain is no different and more. A digitized pharma supply chain can effectively manage inventory, tracks the movement of parts, and manage personnel. The digitalization of this industry is becoming more of a requirement to succeed in this day and age.