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There’s never been a more interesting time to work in logistics. Supply chains are more global than ever, macro demand is on a constant upward trajectory, and as logistics leaders, we face a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact. I love coming up with creative ways to solve these challenges and I am a big advocate of trying innovative technologies that help us meet our goals. At Theramex, my team and I are responsible for making sure over 30 million packs per year get into the hands of our patients—on time and in full—all around the world.
When I transitioned from FMCG to the pharmaceutical industry, I faced a new layer of complexity caused by the tight regulatory environment. Mandatory compliance and quality checks at each step of the supply chain mean that tens of documents must flow between parties before a product can be released into the market. Cross-border trade is the norm and due to the specialised nature of the manufacturing, there are multiple contracted parties who you need to interact with. Furthermore, the order frequency from a given supplier tends to be quite low, meaning ways of working can be unfamiliar and each shipment is somewhat of an edge case.
With complexity inevitably come challenges. Our supply chain flow wasn’t as fluid as needed and was generating a lot of bumps: batches ready for pickup were not being collected; products were not being released into market on time; delivery documents were disappearing. It was incredibly difficult to keep track of the status of our orders, and it often took hours, days, or on some occasions weeks to identify the issue and come with a fix.
I found that most of our problems stemmed from a lack of communication and information transparency. Functional teams (Supply Chain, Quality, Regulatory and so on) tend to work in silos, which inhibit their ability to request, access and review documentation to keep the train moving. Email is still used as the primary communication tool between parties in the supply chain, yet its limited functionality routinely leads to documents getting lost, actions being left unactioned, and frustrating delays that could be avoided. In the pharma industry, where the value of a container regularly exceeds €1 million while it takes four to six months to secure a new manufacturing slot, these delays are extremely costly for both our patients and our company. It is no wonder that around 15 percent of the global pharma market is out of stock—equivalent to €150 billion in lost revenue and, more importantly, untreated patients.
As I was looking for a sustainable solution, I found an innovative technology which has been a tremendous help in solving these problems. For the last few months, we have been working with a company called pharmaX on their beta version of their web app, pXTerminal. Their product provides an overlay to our existing ERP systems and has an intuitive user interface that everyone can work with—including all our external suppliers and logistics partners. It provides a single source of truth about the status of a shipment, including all the delivery documents, and even gives you the ability to assign actions by tagging other users. I feel like there is a lot of traction around Blockchain, which can be amazing in the long term but is extremely costly and requires a lot of system integration, where as I find a lot of value to be captured through using simple, easy-to-use web tools. As the world is moving at a higher velocity than ever, we supply chain leaders are facing new challenges which are driving new complexities. Embracing new technology and driving more sustainable operations must be at the heart of our journey to Supply Chain Excellence.