In a (nearly) post-pandemic world, the pharma industry’s varied progress on the digitalization journey has revealed an array of newfound strengths in some sectors together with serious ongoing challenges in others. The lethargic, single-threaded nature of the traditional pharma supply chain was quickly exposed as an Achilles heel in the face of major disruptions during the pandemic, especially when rolling out cutting-edge medicine.
In the opening panel discussion at the 2022 LogiPharma Conference on April 5th, pharma VPs from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and others highlighted their keys to delivering vaccines on a record-breaking timeline while navigating unprecedented volatility. Paramount to this success was their ability to build vaccine supply chains that excelled in responsiveness, risk management, and resilience, thus differentiating themselves from their peers.
Today the industry continues to experience shockwaves from the pandemic combined with the effects of geopolitical policy, extreme weather and other factors. The current outlook suggests that ongoing disruptions are the new normal. Embracing this paradigm requires self-reflection on whether your supply chain is poised to weather the storm. This assessment is a critical inflection point to recalibrate strategy, strengthen existing architectures, and set sights on the next wave of digitalization to ensure agility and resilience in an uncertain future. We delve into this topic specifically for production scheduling in our recently published Interview with an Expert.
What needs to be done?
The reality of most digital infrastructures in pharma today is a landscape of isolated data silos across both a company’s internal business processes and those that intersect with external partners. It stands to reason that connecting these islands into a seamless framework for integrated data sharing and decision making requires a unified software solution. However, many companies lack this unified solution for their interdependent business processes, often because of mergers, factions of business divisions, or lack of digital network leadership and coordination. There is an emerging consensus that pharma technology executives need to urgently address this by implementing a seamless data infrastructure on which to build integrated business planning and scheduling.
The connectivity and synchronization of internal systems, their data and work processes can be achieved via internal standardization. This helps avoid misalignment from offline, isolated models (digital twins) as well as achieve increased automation to eliminate human error. The net result is a supply chain that delivers agility balanced with risk management and resilience.
The pharma industry lags others when it comes to digitalization, in particular the sharing of data outside the firewall. Hesitancy may persist from the regulatory implications of sharing patient data, the potential to compromise data security, or even a fear of exposing valuable insights to competitors. However, there is mutual benefit in sharing the right data with the right partners, especially when feedback loops are integrated into this exchange.
In a separate panel discussion at LogiPharma focusing on digital integration of stakeholders, Frédéric Zwahlen, SVP Global Technical Operations & Supply Chain at Vifor Pharma, highlighted the reality that you only get as much visibility as you are willing to share. This underscores the reality that data sharing across the pharma supply chain is not a digital problem but rather a relationship one. Embracing data sharing must be led, if not mandated by the innovator pharma companies across their supply chains to enable the deployment of AI and ML technologies that drive new insights.
Connecting relevant internal data to and from external partners’ systems is the only way to achieve the web of connectivity needed to realize the promise of Pharma 4.0. This data infrastructure provides the necessary foundation to build executive control towers for real-time visibility and insights across the entire pharma value chain network.
As seen with the recent successes of vaccine supply chains, employing standardization, connectivity, integration and control towers provides the infrastructure to empower agility, risk management and resilience. Pharma manufacturers that embrace these capabilities will set their companies apart as their ability to navigate ongoing disruptions with flexibility and speed becomes an embedded core competency.
To learn more, watch our on-demand webinar titled, “Riding the Rollercoaster of Pharma Production Scheduling”.