Enhance pharma supply chains: Insights from LogiPharma 2024
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Combining supply chain innovation and resilience in pharma

Antonio Tramontano

Global life sciences supply chain leader, Genpact



A time capsule of learnings from the LogiPharma event

Picture this: A pharmaceutical company suffers from supply chain problems, such as logistical issues, poor stakeholder coordination, and inventory visibility challenges, to name a few. The business still relies on outdated workflows and lacks advanced digital tools and AI integration to analyze its vast data store. So, what does the company need? A holistic supply chain strategy.

What I describe isn't unheard of in the pharma world – a concern we all shared at this year's LogiPharma conference. If you're looking for fail-safe remedies for these challenges, here are my top three takeaways, which also enable sustainable practices and patient-centric measures to drive better care.

1. Collaboration as a potent cure to supply chain deficiencies

Although the sector is poised to navigate stricter regulatory shifts, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) emphasis, geopolitical tensions, and resource fluctuation, the pharma supply chain can't address these challenges alone. You need a joint strategy across functions to improve participation and break down silos. This can boost order fulfillment lead time, inventory turns, on-time delivery rates, and customer satisfaction.

At the event, I joined a fascinating panel to discuss how clinical and commercial supply chains can collaborate more effectively for successful launch management. I emphasized that both domains must work in tandem from the early stages of clinical trials and warned that erroneous assumptions in commercial practices can adversely affect trial executions.

Supply chain collaboration isn't just about connecting different entities. It's about creating a synchronized, responsive, and adaptive network. Adopting a multimodal chain – a network-of-networks model – marks a significant shift for the pharma industry. I've seen these hyperconnected supply chains work firsthand. Working with a global pharma company, we implemented an end-to-end planning solution to integrate its R&D manufacturing sites, commercial manufacturing sites, and subcontractors. The result? Better cross-functional visibility that improved clinical sales and operation planning.

2. The right dose of analytics and AI keeps operations healthy

Supply Chain 4.0 was a hot topic. Of the 150 supply chain leaders who participated in a LogiPharma survey, a whopping 97% revealed that they collect real-time shipment data, with many analyzing transportation data to accelerate logistical decisions. The results highlight that businesses today aim to use data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning not only to enhance operational efficiency but also to predict disruptions.

The event participants also shared some fascinating AI use cases, such as:

  1. An AI/ML forecast calculator: AI models that seamlessly process real-time data streams, including new research findings, emerging health trends, and changes in healthcare practices
  2. The supply chain optimizer: AI and digital solutions that significantly enhance the ability of supply chain professionals to trigger automatic reorders or redistributions of a drug to balance inventory across sites while tracking regulatory requirements
  3. End-to-end supply chain digital twins: A virtual replica of a physical supply chain that simulates various supply chain scenarios in real time for you to visualize and analyze data across your networks to identify inefficiencies and optimize resource allocation
  4. Generative AI (gen AI)-driven operations: Some companies are piloting gen AI for compliance and regulatory processes. The technology can help manage contract risks, draft contracts, and handle master data management for long-tail indirect spend – items that are purchased infrequently but are still necessary for operations

3. Sustainability as a strategic supplement

The survey also reported that 43% of supply chain leaders focus their data-gathering efforts on supporting sustainability goals. Although the pharma industry has been slower in absorbing sustainability guidelines due to stricter regulations and the complexity of products, the move towards environment-friendly operations is increasingly apparent.

During our event masterclass, we discussed sustainable solutions like:

  • Adopting cardboard pallets, vacuum-insulated boxes, and all-pulp reusable packaging solutions to reduce the environmental impact of packaging materials
  • Setting up control towers by continuously monitoring and adjusting operations to improve sustainability scores
  • Shifting from air to ocean transport while addressing the complexities of medical device regulation reclassification to adopt slower, more predictable shipping routes and support carbon-curbing strategic planning
  • Automating the impact assessment of time out of refrigeration (TOR), from manufacturing to consumption, with advanced cold-chain shipping technologies that monitor the exposure of temperature-sensitive products. Integrating a TOR monitoring system with ERP systems is a great way to maintain product integrity

While these solutions sound promising, there are significant barriers, too. Regulatory challenges often slow the adoption of new technologies and processes. Solution? Engage in continuous dialogue with regulatory bodies to ensure new sustainable practices meet compliance standards without stifling innovation. But remember that integrating new systems and practices across global supply chains is resource intensive.

An intelligent approach is to deploy pilot programs to evaluate the effectiveness of new practices before full-scale implementation. But make sure you have the capabilities to quickly switch pilots into productions when they prove effective. And don't forget cost implications. The initial costs for sustainable technologies and practices can be high. Finally, look beyond quick wins. Long-term cost-benefit analyses demonstrate the financial viability and brand value of these investments.

Toward connected, sustainable, and compliant pharma supply chains

LogiPharma 2024 set out a dynamic, interconnected, and technology-driven future for pharma supply chains. Adopting these learnings will enable life sciences companies to reap the full benefits of digital technologies, strengthen sustainability efforts, and embrace collaboration, which will dramatically enhance patient care.

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