Transforming pharma supply chains

July 1, 2021
How open digital network platforms can help achieve true collective intelligence

It has been a long journey for the pharma and regulators to achieve the common vision of an end‑to‑end digitally interoperable supply chain, where information can be shared freely among all participants and drive supply chain agility, security and resilience.

We still have a long way to go, but the goal is in sight. As we think about how far we've come, since well before the '90s, the industry has been enduring an ongoing integration. First, between departments to basically enable them to share processes and information, then slowly it started to work across the enterprise.

As a result, supply chain management started to grow. By the 2000s pharma’s supply chain had created towers that gave enterprises better visibility into their own network. Then the industry started networking, integrating strands of its trade partner network with the company’s own network for specific purposes — that is when there was very clear, obvious value that could be achieved from such an integration.

However, the successful examples were and are still few and far between, isolated and very linear. For the most part, whatever end‑to‑end visibility has been achieved across today's pharma supply chain is limited and proprietary.

Can’t respond smart enough

With limited visibility across the end‑to‑end supply chain, it’s hard to make informed decisions – let alone smart ones. When product demand cycles are a mystery and raw material suppliers seemingly come out of nowhere with delays, how could any organization respond effectively?

As we look forward into the future, what we really need to do is move towards a model that fosters the true integration the industry and regulators seek while driving better visibility into the enterprise — but this time within an extended partner network.

Toward a smarter digital supply chain ecosystem

An industry-based, intelligent digital supply network that works end‑to‑end must have the ability to admit trade partners and interconnect comprehensively. It must support an integrated interoperable ecosystem in which information and data are shared via interconnections across all nodes.

Processes and systems of sharing information across all those nodes and the sharing of information across internal platforms is what the pharma industry needs to achieve a true collective intelligence across the overall network — and there has never been a better opportunity.

The missing ingredient - a platform to build collaboration

The missing ingredient has been that we've not had an open platform on which to build interoperable networks with trade partners. What is needed is a new generation of applications to jump connections across all the nodes and trade partners in a given supply chain.

These “multi‑enterprise applications” will have the ability to create collaborative interoperable networks. Each application itself understands inherently it is a collaborative application, one that has built-in tools to onboard disparate partners and creates links among them all. Once invited, all parties can interconnect across those links and share both processes and information.

Cross-company, cross-partner functionality

That value of sharing applications and processes across trade partners cross‑functionally, within your company and with partners, is hard to understate. This can be accomplished through a platform that creates a common data model that all partners can access to share data and run processes.

From there, pharma companies will have a single column of information and intelligence that they can collectively generate across the entire network that enables them to predict product availability issues or supply availability issues. They will have the ability to adjust for that on a real‑time, daily basis versus getting data that is not accurate and out of date.

That means one company can work very quickly with another company. Once integrated into the network individual enterprises can interoperate with everyone else. Thus, one partner can now work with multiple other subscribing companies and all the information is interoperable.

I believe that multi‑enterprise applications will truly make possible the advanced digitized supply chain everyone needs and wants. Each multi‑enterprise application creates its own business ecosystem that enables the digitalization of those processes. Each company then effectively creates their own process networks. In this case, each company has its own process network that it's operating and managing with its partner links, the roles that those partners have, information accesses they have.

All that information can then be analyzed through data pipelines. That means all the information and data within the multi‑enterprise network, within a process, across a company and its network, then across to other companies, can all be analyzed. You can have intelligence that can not only be created within this ecosystem but across all the other multi‑enterprise applications as well.

For instance, let's say if it's for a cell and gene therapy in one area where a multi‑enterprise application needs to be built just for that purpose. A business ecosystem will shoot up in that area.

As we move forward as an industry, what we see is that with open platforms and shared data, trade partners will have an easier and consistent opportunity to identify unstructured business processes and connect them within an ecosystem of multi-enterprise applications.

Where to start

Where to start? Start with the most strategic supplier in the chain. Start with the most important product line in the company. Select technology platforms. Build out teams and trade partner alliances based on the data. Leverage the platform to create the customizations that are needed to tackle disruptions and track suppliers. Begin to realize strategic value, then continue to move forward adding more processes, more tactical teams, and more importantly, more strategic partners.

About the Author

Shabbir Dahod | President & CEO