The pharma supply chain has been stress tested to breaking point in the past few months. Many life science companies have transitioned to entirely new product lines. Change is now the only certainty and pharmaceutical suppliers must be flexible and agile to address the challenges head on. Kallik Chief Executive Officer, Gurdip Singh offers some pointers for pharma companies to become leaders in the new normal.
Disruption across supply chains continues, driven by volatility in the supply of parts and raw materials. Manufacturers of vital pharmaceuticals are struggling to meet demand, while others are experiencing dramatic drops in demand and extreme pressure to cut operational costs. Requirements for social distancing and employee safety measures add an additional level of pressure.
Across the globe, countries have stopped elective surgery to create capacity for treating COVID-19. Medical device suppliers supporting hospitals with procedures such as hip replacements and even elective cardiac surgery have seen a huge impact on their revenue streams. Some have diversified their product ranges to meet the demand for PPE and ventilators. Yet, at some point, countries will re-open the doors to elective surgery, leading to huge pent up demand for product. The need to able to ship different product lines rapidly has forced changes in manufacturing shift patterns and logistics.
In the pharmaceutical sector, many players have pivoted their operations to join in the race to develop a vaccine or repurpose existing drugs to treat COVID-19. The need to repurpose patient information labelling rapidly to meet regulatory requirements is an immediate challenge.
Prepare to diversify at short notice
Normal has fundamentally shifted. Leaders in pharmaceuticals who understand and act on this new normal will have ample opportunities for growth. The possibility of future pandemics is very real. From now on, suppliers must be mindful that they may have to diversify from mainstay revenue streams at short notice. The dynamic of the supply chain has changed. Traditional, smooth processes will need to adapt to peaks and troughs.
Businesses need to ask themselves how ready they are to work with a reduced supply chain headcount and to pivot to offering new product lines in case of future crises. Consider how labelling and work processes are affected by employees working from home or a reduced headcount. Might it be possible to close the gaps caused by COVID-19 with better labelling automation?
Diversification is key to responding to changes in buyer behaviour and the macro economic environment – and avoiding massive dips in conventional revenue streams. A centralised view of data and insights across the whole manufacturing operation will become a standard component of running a manufacturing organisation.
For the survival of many organisations, it is vital to accelerate diversification and boost speed to market. Data analytics, harnessing the power of data that companies already have, can help organisations understand their customers’ fast changing needs at a granular level. Getting information about the product to the right stakeholders so they can use it safely and effectively is key. Patient information need no longer be produced only in the form of a label or a leaflet. Consider what is the most effective means for people to consume that information – an online video may be a useful supplement to traditional paper information.
If patient information data is stored at component level, separated into symbol, text, or phrase, right through to adaptations for different languages, it will enable faster change. That way, when a company has to diversify rapidly, it is easy to reuse existing data to create new labelling using confirmed branding, logos and phrases. A medical device company that produces predominantly orthopaedic surgical devices might be able to produce ventilators. Reusing existing data, it can get a new product line labelled and out very rapidly. Anyone selling a drug that can be used to treat COVID-19 can repackage and deliver it within a matter of days.
Automation supports staffing changes
Social distancing measures have had a huge impact on staffing. Many organisations have been forced to put in place remote working access for office staff – that meets regulatory requirements – at short notice. Manufacturers may lose up to 50% of their on-site personnel1. To address this, some manufacturers have adjusted shift patterns to reduce the number of staff onsite at any one time. Longer term, increasing process automation is more effective.
Analyst firm McKinsey highlights how the manufacturing sector, where physical distancing can be challenging, is tapping into the Internet of Things (IoT): “In the recent past, there was some scepticism about applying the Internet of Things (IoT) to industry. Now, many industrial companies have embraced IoT to devise safety strategies, improve collaboration with suppliers, manage inventory, optimise procurement, and maintain equipment. This virtual shift will help digitise and scale much-needed expertise across the organisation to enable the extended and often virtual workforce to become more focused, effective, and more productive.”2
Significantly accelerated deployment of Industrial IoT, is already contributing more data visualisation and insights across operations. Remotely managed virtual solutions can help companies adjust to a very different future by reducing costs, enabling physical distancing, and creating more flexible operations.
Re-evaluate business resilience
It is impossible to predict all the long-term changes to the sector. One thing is certain – driving efficiency will always be crucial to business success. The global health crisis has forced an urgent re-evaluation of business resilience, focusing on efficiencies that will underpin enhanced business agility. Leaders in the new normal will be pharma companies who are best able to diversify product lines, update labelling to regulatory requirements, and get new products to market and patients more quickly than ever before.