Supply Chain Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry

How Digitalization Is Transforming Supply Chain Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry


The pharmaceutical industry is on an accelerated path to building greater efficiency and consistency in its production capabilities, and not a moment too soon. The global supply chain impacts of COVID-19 highlighted the urgent need for disruptive technologies to strengthen the agility and resilience of the pharmaceutical value chain network.


Combined with these unique challenges, the ISPE's Pharma 4.0 framework and the FDA's Advanced Manufacturing Initiative promote the benefits of integrating Industry 4.0 capabilities into the pharmaceutical sector. Together, these factors yield an unprecedented opportunity to improve the reliability, quality and cost efficiency of pharmaceutical product supply when and where patients need it.

Challenges in Supply Chain Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply and logistic variables became increasingly unpredictable. Shipping costs, logistic workforce shortages, manufacturing delays and shortages, customs congestion and many other factors complicated and impacted the end-to-end pharma supply chain in new ways. For example, products used to treat COVID-19 complications experienced whiplashes of unforeseen demand as case counts fluctuated dramatically across global markets. These volatile conditions resulted in significant additional stress on many supply chains, making it much more difficult to meet customer demand.


Pharma manufacturers have had to navigate and adapt to these changes, managing new levels of complexity while remaining diligent in response to the dynamic environment. Hedging bets on safety stocks, production priorities and the reliability of raw materials have become part of the daily decision-making process. Thankfully, a variety of new strategies ranging from advanced Process Analytical Technology (PAT) to predictive maintenance for pharma have emerged to overcome these challenges. 

Adopting Digital Strategies for Improved Scheduling

The scheduler is one of the most important jobs within any pharmaceutical manufacturer's supply chain. Digital scheduling solutions enable schedulers to move from reactive scheduling to proactive scheduling by eliminating errors and busywork, delivering visibility into all pertinent performance indicators, and enabling right-first-time scheduling. Updating production plans as changes occur and making optimal decisions become easier, empowering schedulers with an increased ability to manage complexity better, stay on target and meet key metrics.


With digital solutions in place, performance metrics can be tracked while scheduling, offering incredible value and visibility into understanding how different scenarios can maximize performance. For instance, de-bottlenecking production by modeling process improvements or potential additional assets through scenario planning and modeling empowers stronger decision-making.


In addition, instead of the scheduler spending up to 45 percent of their time reacting to changes in the supply chain, they can shift their time towards being proactive, balancing short and long term production schedules. For example, integrated planning and scheduling technology can increase facility production and throughput by 20 percent with better utilization of over hundreds of assets.

Supporting Access to Medicine with Supply Chain Resiliency


Reliable access to life-saving medicines continues to be a top business imperative in the pharmaceutical industry, especially with the unprecedented disruptions and uncertainty witnessed in recent years. Digital planning and scheduling technologies provide significant support to streamlining production activity and easing supply pressures.


Pharma manufacturers facing challenges like shipping costs, logistic workforce shortages, manufacturing delays and customs congestion, can benefit from digital scheduling solutions to manage complexity and adapt to changes. The boost in operational intelligence helps production lines effectively respond to shifts in supply and demand as well as unplanned events, balancing near-term and long-term priorities. Additionally, by enabling improved efficiencies through digital planning and scheduling, there is an inherent offset to waste and CO2 emissions, which supports the sustainability goals many companies are increasingly adopting.


Improving Supply Chain Management in Pharma with AspenTech

Aspen Technology (AspenTech) is an industry-leading software partner specializing in optimizing asset performance and asset life cycle within the pharmaceutical supply chain management landscape. Our solutions excel in intricate industrial settings where optimizing the entire lifecycle of asset design, operation and maintenance is crucial. We merge decades of process modeling know-how with machine learning and an industrial digital transformation, resulting in a purpose-built software platform that automates work and cultivates a sustainable competitive edge by delivering substantial returns throughout the entire asset lifecycle.



How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted supply chain management in the pharmaceutical industry?


The pandemic has led to unpredictable supply and logistic variables, including shipping costs, workforce shortages, manufacturing delays and customs congestion. These challenges have made it more difficult to meet customer demand and increased the complexity and importance of scheduling in the pharmaceutical supply chain.


What are the benefits of using digital scheduling solutions in the pharmaceutical industry?


Digital scheduling solutions help move from reactive to proactive scheduling, reducing errors and busywork while providing better visibility into performance indicators. These solutions enable schedulers to manage complexity more effectively, stay on target, and meet key metrics. Improved scheduling can lead to increased production throughput, better resource utilization and a more resilient pharma supply chain.


How can digital scheduling solutions improve business outcomes in the pharmaceutical industry?


Digital scheduling solutions can lead to dramatic improvements in production planning, resource utilization, labor productivity, inventory management and quality assurance. These improvements contribute to increased operational excellence, reduced production disruption risks and strengthened manufacturers' ability to deliver life-saving medicines on time and in full.


Why is it important to optimize scheduling in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly during disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic?


Optimal scheduling plays a critical role in increasing throughput and maximizing drug availability across markets with finite manufacturing capacity. Digital solutions that enable optimal scheduling can shorten the timeframe needed to boost production capacity and delay the need for expensive capital projects. This leads to a more agile, efficient and reliable supply chain, ensuring the timely availability of life-saving medicines for patients.