As globalization made the pharmaceutical industry increasingly competitive, the pharma supply chain ecosystems have also become more complex. This made the supply chain process a much more intensified web of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, third-party logistics partners, and others involved in getting a drug from the production line to patients. It would only make sense to digitize and declutter the whole process.
But is it that simple to simplify it? Let’s find out.
According to a World Health Organization Report, 10% of the worldwide drug market is counterfeit drugs, which directly points a finger at the risks that come with a complicated — and thus compromised — supply chain ecosystem. To deal with the added complexity, increased drug counterfeiting, unprecedented delays, and ultimately a threatened supply chain integrity and patient safety issues, the revolution that’s the digitization of the pharma supply chain began.
Why Digitization Drives Failed in the Past
In the recent past, there have been many innovations in the path of digitizing the Pharma supply chain process. Although it has been a big step forward, there are still some unresolved issues that come in the way of the transition, some of which are:
- Dependency on the organization’s IT team — tech adoption was a tough task since the process was too complex to achieve effectively without technical expertise.
- Hassles in integration with the existing system — most organizations found it difficult to incorporate the change in working processes and integrating it with the existing ERP, which made it tricky.
- Inability to scale up the digital initiative — it isn’t always only about initiating digitization, but more about being able to successfully scale it.
- Digital maturity lag — more often than not, organizations aren’t prepared for big technical upgrades, let alone scaling up with the initiatives.
- Cost-related issues — according to the Digital Supply Chain Survey of 1,001 organizations conducted by Capgemini Research Institute, nearly 80% of the organizations reported cost saving as the key driver of their supply chain investment decisions. It becomes difficult to justify the cost of implementing a new asset monitoring system as against the ROI benefits it brings, when it involves a considerable amount of setting up and training.
- Actionability troubles — having an overwhelming amount of data while not being able to leverage it is something that happens with most organizations. Just knowing something went wrong isn’t enough, being able to save the day is the actual purpose.
What's Different Now?
Today, it has become way easier than before to align your supply chain vision with the existing enterprise vision without having to wait for your organization to initiate. You could be the one to bring this groundbreaking change to your own supply chain department. Bring your partners on-board with the idea of a better change, foster collaborations, work from the grassroots — establish a more tech-savvy and data-driven supply chain function.
To enable digitization, you also need to bring the customers on-board with the idea, and make sure that the whole process is driven by a customer-centric approach. Maybe even make it a three-way approach wherein you bring on board the customer, the employee, and the partners over time.
A well laid out and executed digitized supply chain brings a lot of tools to the table that you can use in order to digitize your pharma supply chain:
- Plug-n-play setup — which means getting end-to-end visibility using portable, pay-as-you-go, plug-and-play tracking devices that can be used and sent back after use.
- Easy sensor device reverse logistics — which means these devices can be received, attached, used, and then easily returned.
- Easy integration — which means your new pharma supply chain monitoring solution can be easily integrated with your existing system.
- Minimal infrastructure requirement — which means there is no need to set up heavy infrastructure, asking for less effort and investment in the setup.
- No need for process reengineering — which means the supply chain monitoring system doesn’t need you to spend time, effort, and budgets on strategizing, designing, and managing the system.
- Real-time dashboards — which means you can manage all your devices and the data in real-time without having to depend on the IT team.
- Data analytics — which means you get assistance even with the actions you need to take regarding the anomalies that the devices inform you about.
So, what really is different now is that all of these options have made digitizing your pharma supply chain a smooth journey. You now have better cold chain pharmaceutical logistics that make staying on top of your supply chain easier than ever by providing:
- More visibility — into the whereabouts of the products, which is real-time and useful in the true sense.
- Timely and actionable information — on diversion or counterfeiting, detection of anomalies, product shortage prevention, and optimization of supply chain operations.
- Easy access to product information — and in turn, better customer engagement for pharma companies, improved product quality, and patient safety.
Create a supply chain process that runs completely on its own — a more integrated, efficient, and secure pharma supply chain network. This, in turn, would help improve product quality and patient safety along with generating significant business value from the serialization of data.
Let’s see how, using these advantages, you can make your supply chain department even more digitized than your IT department!
How to Get Started
You can completely transform your pharma supply chain into digital in a day, that too without having to rely on the IT support; all you need to do is do your homework well before you actually implement the system, so there aren’t any glitches later. This can be broken down into three simple parts/steps:
Find the Right Hardware
The first step is to decide which hardware suits your needs most. You can choose from the available options as per your requirement:
- Stand-alone temperature data loggers — that are low-cost, easy to set up and deploy, and record just temperature data.
- Cold chain data loggers — that record temperature as well as ambient condition data (humidity, pressure, etc.) that they can store internally and send to cloud storage.
- Enterprise-level temperature monitoring systems — that are integrated with larger ERPs or cold chain shipment monitoring systems. These systems also provide live alerts, predictive analytics, and can be scaled to support larger operations.
Before you choose the hardware, make sure that:
- It has all the required sensors like humidity, light, physical shock, air pressure, the concentration of specific gases, and more.
- It gives you location and condition alerts whenever and as frequently you require.
- It is something you can set up and deploy by yourself without much help from the IT team within one day.
- It has a long battery life to suffice the duration of your shipment and has a simple and infallible system for data storage and transfer.
Find the Right Setup
Just having the right hardware isn’t enough; you need to make sure that the whole setup works in sync. With a good device, you will have the data you need, but a well-implemented system will ensure that the data is leveraged in true sense. In order to make the best use of the pharma cold chain, you need to see that:
- It provides Real, Real-time, Relevant Data on temperature and condition — so you can act on excursions rather than getting post-event information on it. This is especially important in case of temperature-controlled logistics like some drugs and heat-sensitive vaccines, as even seconds of excursion could mean unimaginable amount of damage, or even worse, compromising with patient safety.
- It can monitor at a package level — so you can get granular data to more accuracy and better solutions.
- It always stays connected — so you never have to miss out on the whereabouts of your shipment. It should be able to switch to another available network when one goes spotty.
- It is easy to use — so when you have to manage the devices or the data, you can do it yourself instead of having to wait for an expert to come around.
- It has an easy-to-use dashboard — so you can manage the data by yourself without having to rely on your IT personnel.
- It provides accurate and actionable data — so you have data that really makes sense when making decisions.
Once your hardware and system are well-laid and everything is in place, you need to make certain if everything is working the way you had planned to in your digitized pharma supply chain system. You can do it by:
- Optimizing the setup — so that nothing is amiss when it comes to gathering the data and leveraging it, especially because of a system glitch.
- Setting up contextual reporting — so people at different points in the value chain get the information they need to make meaningful change.
- Setting up for analytics — so that you can choose the best course of action with the information you receive from the device.
- Gear up for insight from analytics — so you get preemptive alerts that help you manage issues before they cause disruption.
- Maintaining supply chain workflows smooth — so it becomes easy to generate meaningful data, and get actionable insight out of it.
The decision of digitizing your Pharmaceutical Cold Chain affects not just the supply chain but a lot of other things including compliance, security, quality, customer relations, and brand perception in the long run. Ascertain that your whole plan is in place, all your partners and stakeholders are on board, and you have thoroughly worked out the ROI, before implementing it.