Overcoming The Medical Industry's Supply Chain Challenges
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Pharma Tech Outlook: Pharma Tech Magazine

Overcoming The Medical Industry's Supply Chain Challenges

Erik Lemay, Global Head of External Manufacturing, Servier

Erik Lemay, Global Head of External Manufacturing, Servier

Since the pandemic began, industries across the globe have been impacted by significant and widespread supply chain issues – a reality that's perhaps no more apparent than in healthcare. Just consider that 99 percent of U.S. hospitals and health systems have reported experiencing challenges in supply procurement, including notable shortages of key items. The pandemic has exposed longstanding gaps in our medical supply chain, leaving business leaders with hard-learned lessons about the future of the pharmaceutical industry, namely: In the face of external challenges, we still have work to do.

Below, are insights that can help pharmaceutical companies circumnavigate supply-chain bottlenecks plaguing our industry and are critical to ensuring people get the necessary treatments they need.

1. Focus on Digital

Today, supply chains can greatly benefit from digital integrations, harnessing the latest in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data analytics to anticipate problems and ultimately deliver medicines faster and more safely to patients. It’s for this reason and more that approximately 88% of healthcare executives identify AI as a ‘critical’ technology for supply chains in the next three years. By leveraging innovative digital advancements, organizations can gain real-time insights and make data-informed decisions to mitigate supply-chain disruptions.

2. Lead with Oversight

For any pharma company, having direct oversight across every juncture of your supply chain is often easier said than done. In fact, third-party manufacturing, product handling, and transportation are all considered to be “tricks of the trade.” Unfortunately, when one step has a delay, it can lead to negative impacts across the entire process, especially for medications with shorter shelf-lives.

“Companies looking to mitigate third-party disruptions would be wise to integrate visibility and accountability at each step of the product journey.”

Accordingly, companies looking to mitigate third-party disruptions would be wise to integrate visibility and accountability at each step of the product journey. Forward looking analysis is a critical component of this, as it can ensure that you have appropriate safety stocks of all materials across your supply chain. Additionally, it is best to incorporate dual sourcing throughout your supply chain, if financially feasible.

Whether it’s arming your teams with new, real-time data monitoring protocols or collaborating with the right partners, companies should take steps to be more intimately involved in their operating practices– instilling oversight along the way.

3. Don’t Forget R&D

When we think about the medical supply chain, many of us are quick to focus on commercialization. While this is certainly a priority it overlooks a critical aspect of drug manufacturing: You can’t deliver what you don’t develop. It’s important to remember supply chains aren’t just needed for product manufacturing, they’re also needed to progress therapeutics through clinical trials. By making a concerted effort to include R&D in supply chain conversations whenever a disruption occurs, business leaders can get an adequate understanding of potential pipeline impacts and find solutions that overcome them.  

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s how quickly the world can change, and how important it is that pharmaceutical companies keep up with the pace. With every delay, comes a patient who doesn’t receive their medicine. With every disruption, comes a clinical trial that can’t launch. As leaders, we always have to think one-step ahead in order to keep supply chains running in the face of the unexpected. By following these tips, we can do so faster, safer and more reliably, ensuring our supply chains reach those in need, when they need it most.

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