Redesigning Your Supply Chain For Competitive Advantage In Line With New Demands And Disruption

By: Des Nnochiri for WBR UK, 10 February 2021

Besides precipitating changes in working practices and a worldwide shift to digital platforms and commerce, COVID-19 is forcing many organisations and sectors -- including the pharmaceutical industry -- to rethink and reconfigure their global supply chain models. At the same time, changing market dynamics are putting pressure on pharmaceutical organisations to respond to consumer demands for patient-centric practices and personalised experiences.

In a disruptive environment, those manufacturers and distributors most likely to prosper are the ones who can quickly adapt to volatile market conditions, meet customer needs, and still respond to the requirements of worker and consumer safety. In this article, we consider how to fundamentally redesign your supply chain in order to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 disruption, meet the demands of personalised medicines, and thrive as an originator with competitive advantage.

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Finding Opportunities In A Disruptive Atmosphere

Though healthcare and life sciences supply chains have suffered considerable disruption due to the pandemic, they are also serving as a vital link in the COVID-19 response effort. This applies not only to critical supplies of medicines, personal protective equipment, and other front line commodities, but also to essential food and living items for consumers around the globe. To meet their commitments, supply chain operators are having to ramp up their skills, and call on new reserves of resiliency, flexibility, and ingenuity.

With the emergence of new coronavirus vaccines throwing some light at the end of the tunnel, the pressure is also on for supply chain operators to find cost-effective and efficient methods of contributing to the distribution and storage efforts, as vaccine roll outs gather pace. The gradual reawakening of the global economy will also provide opportunities, as logistics and supply chain activities accelerate to keep pace with fresh demands for the safe and secure provision of goods and services.

At a branding and brand differentiation level, supply chain operators have the opportunity to create and sustain a lasting impression in the minds of consumers and partners at this time. The way that companies respond to this disruptive period will shape their image for years to come, in the minds of customers, communities, governments, and investors.

Supply Chain Redesign In Light of New And Heightened Risks

The impact of COVID-19 requires supply chain operators to remain agile and flexible, and to apply continuous and end to end monitoring, assessment, and optimisation of their lines of supply. To minimise the risks to human health and protect the working of supply chains globally, organisations must be prepared to formulate and execute short-term tactical plans. This requires the establishment and implementation of strong and responsible data management, and sophisticated analytics. Such measures are key in enabling organisations to understand supply chain complexities, anticipate potential disruptions, and develop rapid responses.

In the longer term, organisations must build resiliency into their value chains, as a hedge against future disruptions or challenges. Holistic approaches to supply chain management are most appropriate in this regard, with inherent flexibility in supply chain planning to allow for unforeseen circumstances. Developing a robust framework for risk management operations is also an option worth considering.

A technology stack for this New Normal of risk management should provide end to end transparency across the entire supply chain, and include applied analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence capabilities.

Meeting New Patterns Of Consumer Demand

COVID-19 has brought changes both in terms of market fluctuation, and in customer demands for more patient-centric and personalised methods of goods and service delivery. Throughout the pandemic, supply chain planners have been called upon to make decisions based on real-time information -- emphasising the need to collect and analyse data to improve supply chain visibility, evaluate alternate scenarios, and use segmentation to prioritise demand.

Another tactic worth considering when dealing with a volatile marketplace is to create dedicated planning and execution teams capable of orchestrating your supply chain responses and acting on multiple fronts.

How Novartis Is Putting These Principles In to Practice

Novartis has been mobilising on multiple fronts to support the global pandemic response.

On January 29, 2021, Novartis announced that it has signed an initial agreement to use its manufacturing capabilities in supporting the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. Novartis plans to take a bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and put this into vials under aseptic conditions for shipment back to BioNTech, prior to their distribution to healthcare system customers around the world. The Novartis manufacturing team is in discussion with several other companies with intent to produce therapeutic proteins, and raw material for COVID-19 vaccines.

Elsewhere, the company has committed to donating US $40 million to support communities impacted by the pandemic.

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