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Pharma Supply Chain Management: The Key to Solving Pain Points

Posted by Patrice Farrell on Feb 17, 2016 2:28:24 PM

With a maze of regulations across global jurisdictions and even more complex, temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical and healthcare product requirements, the life sciences supply chain is under pressure to adapt. And from the EU’s Good Distribution Practice guidelines to Brazil’s stringent serialization laws, regulatory compliance is only increasing. In the U.S., serialization, the next phase of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), goes into effect next year for pharmaceutical manufacturers. By 2023, the Act will ensure that manufacturers, repackagers, distributors and dispensers can only transact with serialized product, ensuring unit level traceability across the pharma supply chain. How are supply chain leaders in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries coping?

According to results from the 2015 UPS Pain in the (Supply) Chain Healthcare Survey, healthcare logistics executives are reporting successes in addressing pain points over last year. The eighth annual survey and report gathers the most pressing challenges and successful strategies from 421 interviews with healthcare logistics executives in 16 countries.

Among the biggest areas of success for these supply chain leaders was improving product security. The increase in reported success rates for product security came in at 20 percent over results from the year before. A large proportion (67%) of those who indicated success with addressing product security attributed it to the increased visibility resulting from IT investment into bar coding and serialization

Increasing visibility and transparency through strategies like bar coding, serialization and lot tracking is a crucial goal for supply chain leaders in the pharma and healthcare industries. The report quotes one pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chain executive: “First of all, transparency has to be critical. We have to know at any given point in time where the product is and under what conditions it is currently, either stored or moving.”

However, there is much room for improvement in achieving the transparency to see product (and their environmental conditions) whether stored or in transit. A key to that improvement is inventory visibility: “While healthcare supply chains have made gains, cost management is still a major pain point. In order to address this, healthcare logisticians see the most opportunity in optimizing their transportation costs and gaining better inventory visibility.”

Anytime, anywhere inventory visibility presents a tremendous opportunity for the industry in the breadth of supply chain challenges it addresses, from regulatory compliance, to protecting the supply chain against counterfeit goods. Additionally, 60% of respondents claim that gaining better inventory visibility is “the biggest area of opportunity” in driving costs out of the supply chain. Other strategies logistics leaders look to for reducing supply chain costs include IT investment (57%) and optimizing transportation costs (68%).

For many companies, creating visibility across the supply chain is no easy task. Among the “biggest remaining challenges” are poor supply chain visibility or too many supply chain hand-offs. Half of the survey’s North American and Latin American respondents identified poor supply chain visibility as a top product security challenge. Too many hand-offs can complicate visibility when trading partners don’t share the same level of optimization. The report quotes a logistics exec for a medical device manufacturer: “We need visibility all the way, but our transportation partner isn’t optimized. They use another company to complete local deliveries, and so we lose traceability after our products have been handed off for the last mile. It’s not ideal.”

One way to achieve that end-to-end visibility is through creating a mobile-first supply chain, linked not only to your own track and trace, but also to third-party track and trace systems where required. As the report’s respondents indicated, bar coding, track and trace, and serialization efforts make a real impact on alleviating supply chain pain. A cloud-based inventory management system, such as DSI’s® Cloud Inventory™, allows companies to share inventory information with other business process owners and trading partners in a controlled, secure environment. With a single solution that spans bar coding to serialization to support full supply chain traceability, achieve the visibility to manage costs, compliance and security for your pharmaceutical or healthcare business.

Find out how you can address life sciences supply chain issues—including the 2017 DSCSA serialization deadline—with DSI.

Topics: digital supply chain, DSI cloud inventory™, healthcare, life sciences supply chain, mobile-first supply chain, pharma supply chain, pharma supply chain management, pharmaceuticals, serialization, Solutions, Supply Chain Management, supply chain solutions

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