How to implement a digitally-enabled supply chain

Digitalization continues to transform the pharmaceutical industry. This week, a leading panel of experts unpacked how our medical supply chains can stay up-to-date to keep up with demand, secure their products and increase sustainability. Hosted by SkyCell’s very own Radek Samsonowicz, Nina Nilsson (TSS), Ruud van der Geer (MSD) and Richard Peck (AstraZeneca) offered insights on transforming our supply chains. With 100 leaders of the top Fortune 500 companies placing digitalisation high on their agenda, how do our leading pharma and logistics experts propose we progress in our own industry?

Approach tech as multi-layered

IoT, AI, and Big Data are no longer buzzwords, especially in the pharma industry. “The adoption of technology in pharma supply chains is still on the lower end,” explains Nina, “but interest is high.” As we move forward, Nina encourages smaller organizations to improve software step-by-step to gradually save costs, increase visibility, and boost sustainability. “At TSS, we see digital transformation as beneficial at many different levels; starting from the basics of releasing products in a compliant way, in the most efficient way, and being able to prove it. If you get that right you can start looking at the next level.” With each layer, integrating different data into a common system will be key, Nina explains.

Start with low hanging fruit

“Start with at least the top layer of digitalization,” Ruud implores organizations. Currently building a cloud-based master data solution, MSD collates important ‘low-hanging fruit’ or accessible data. Building from this first stage, they can stretch to more strategic solutions. Richard describes how at AstraZeneca; digitization initiatives see improved visibility in their supply chain. “Historically in our industry we have dealt with issues after the shipment has occurred, now we can not only proactively solve risks as they occur but also predict them and prevent them.”

Open the black-box to regulators

Change is challenging in our regulated industry. Change, whatever the level, can have a significant impact on our organizations. However, all of our experts agree that digitalization is a justified change. To push onwards, Ruud notes our industry needs to reveal more to regulators about the advantages of tech and prove we now have “the control to look in real time” at risks and manage them. Once we realise and embrace the extent of precision in our technological solutions, we can optimize our supply chain and lengthy compliance processes.

Harness predictive analytics to prepare for our future

In preparation of a potential Covid-19 vaccine distribution, introduction of new suppliers and supply distribution needs to speed up. Richard emphasizes how as we enter this period “one size is not going to fit all, and different parts of the supply chain might need different solutions… the traditional way of qualification might not be feasible.” He questions whether senior executives might look at manufacturing more locally in the future. Ruud responds, “Strategic positioning will be key in the future. Where do we manufacture? Where do we store regionally? We will use data to predict that, end-to-end.”

Drive sustainability with digitalization

Head of AstraZeneca stated his organization aims to be carbon neutral by 2025. Richard suggests, “Digitalization in all parts of our business, not just in the supply chain is going to make that happen,” including more regularly working from home. Ruud follows with a startling figure, “globally we throw away 50-60 % of all the medicine produced.” To tackle this, his goal is to keep supply chains at the exact level of need. For this, we need digital visibility and detectability. Nina rounds-off the discussion with positivity, stating that “normally good things come with a cost. Sustainability quite often comes with lower costs. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

SkyCell’s digitalization solution

SkyCelloffers a data-driven container solution that allows pharma companies to optimize their supply chain by reducing, and even predicting, the risk of delivering sensitive drugs by air. It brings together big data, software, and hardware to transform an ever-evolving supply chain, using a growing pool of over ¾ of a billion data-points to enable a market-leading failure rate of less than 0.1%, whilst also reducing CO2 emissions by almost half.

Pharma Logistics Expert Roundtable