In a period of significant transformation for the biopharmaceutical sector, experts highlight the critical importance of digitizing supply chains to ensure their long-term viability. Recent global, national, and industry-specific developments have presented substantial challenges for biopharmaceutical supply chains. Disruptions and shortages have compelled industry leaders and regulatory bodies to explore innovative solutions, fostering resilience in anticipation of future uncertainties.
A recent survey by a leading research institution engaged over 100 biopharmaceutical leaders to gain insights into how digitization can effectively address these ongoing challenges. In an interview with PharmaNewsIntelligence, a prominent industry expert, Laks Pernenkil, PhD, Principal and Practice Leader of US Life Sciences Product and Supply Operations, shares perspectives on the survey’s findings and the key aspects of a digitized biopharmaceutical supply chain.
Challenges in the Biopharmaceutical Supply Chain: Pernenkil underscores the dichotomy in how companies perceive the supply chain before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the industry was witnessing gradual yet transformative shifts toward more specialized therapies. However, the pandemic exacerbated existing challenges, disrupting supply chains globally due to a range of factors, including geographical isolation.
In addition to pandemic-related disruptions, inflation has emerged as a significant hurdle for pharmaceutical firms. Even large companies that had historically resisted gross margin pressures found themselves grappling with profitability as inflation rates surged.
Evolution of Supply Chain Networks: Traditional linear supply chains are evolving into intricate networks, primarily driven by advancements in digital healthcare infrastructure, including computational capabilities and cloud storage.
Defining Digitization: Digitization, in this context, involves the translation of all supply chain activities into a digital framework, encompassing critical elements such as data, analytics, and visibility.
Benefits of Digitization: Pernenkil highlights the advantages of digitization, including heightened visibility, process harmonization, and enhanced asset efficiency. Visibility empowers supply chain resilience by providing insights into actions that can mitigate disruptions. Harmonization streamlines diverse supply chain components, unlocking higher performance potential. Asset efficiency enables companies to optimize investments and increase pharmaceutical production with the same resource allocation.
Establishing Digitized Supply Chains: Numerous companies have embarked on the journey to digitize their supply chains, reaping benefits in terms of improved visibility, process harmonization, and asset efficiency. While some have achieved comprehensive digitization, others are still progressing along this path.
Leveraging Competitive Advantages: Irrespective of a company’s size, a deep understanding of its competitive advantage is crucial. Mature pharmaceutical firms can make strategic choices and investments to maximize returns. Even smaller, emerging companies can harness digitization to strengthen their competitive edge, focusing on areas where it enhances their core strengths, such as optimizing manufacturing processes to minimize errors and reduce product loss.
Digitization Benefits: Survey participants reported various benefits, including enhanced risk detection, improved warehouse efficiency, heightened compliance, cost-effective sourcing, enhanced collaboration, workforce safety improvement, reduced material wastage, and greater insights into process performance.
In conclusion, as the healthcare industry increasingly embraces digital tools, biopharmaceutical companies must adapt and digitize their operations to establish resilient and future-proof supply chains.