Achieving supply chain excellence through innovation and technology integration

Ahead of his session at the Temperature Control and Logistics US Sumit 2020, Pharma Logistics IQ caught up with Jay Galeota, President and Chief Executive Officer of Inheris BioPharma Inc., to discuss how to facilitate innovation within pharma supply chains in order to gain a competitive advantage

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With the Covid-19 pandemic impacting societies and economies worldwide, the effects of innovation in pharma as it aims to overcome the disruption to supply chains and operations is having a dramatic impact on the health and wellness of millions of people. For Jay Galeota, President and Chief Executive Officer of Inheris BioPharma Inc., innovation is a central element to incorporate into the mission of any organization.

“Innovation is typically viewed as this ‘light bulb’ moment, but in my mind innovation should be happening at all levels of an organization all the time,” says Galeota. “If companies can create cultures where there is an expectation for people to innovate, and there is an incentive and desire to innovate, this will then become inherent in the environment people are in and it can also be delivered to the market. To me, this is what is behind creating an innovation culture and what innovation should be defined as.”

In this interview, we look at how innovation processes can be configured to create and manage new ideas in the supply chain. Galeota also touches on the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone to push innovation processes forward.

Pharma Logistics IQ: What solutions exist for those struggling to integrate innovation into their supply chain strategy?

Jay Galeota: There are three important elements to consider when creating an innovation culture. The first is a mindset issue. We are all humans and we tend to want to be comfortable with what we are doing. In order to innovate successfully, however, there has to be a certain level of discomfort and desire to change, and this must start with leadership. Business leaders need to critically look at their supply chain teams to assess if the leaders on the teams are modeling this innovation culture or not.

The second element is technology and a desire to learn how to apply new technologies to improve the efficiency of an organization. The application of new technologies are wrapped up with the concept of innovation, and it is important to convey how the new technologies will be adapted alongside the roles of employees.

Lastly, it is about enablement. The enablement model that I find works well is the Six Sigma model, which defines how to dedicate resources and make capital investment capabilities around systemizing operational efficiency and doing it with the right support resources.

To successfully incorporate these elements you first must truly believe they are important to the mission of your organization. A classic example is UPS’s innovation initiative called Ask the truck drivers, which looked at how the business could innovate based on what its customers fed back on the frontline. They believed innovating was critical to their mission and these learnings catapulted UPS forward in the supply chain market. 

It comes back to everyone within an organization playing a role. Innovation is everyone’s job and you can see value unlocked when that mindset comes into play. If business leaders can demonstrate that value and broadcast it widely within their organizations it will become self-reinforcing.

Pharma Logistics IQ: How can innovation processes be configured to create and manage new ideas in the supply chain?

JG: Again, this too is really about this idea of enabling and systemizing innovation. Using models such as Six Sigma regularly, as part of standard operations, will help supply chains manage their operations more successfully. There is no single methodology to fit the needs of all business types but it is important to have resources dedicated to driving innovation as part of your business plan within the operating model itself.

Embedding a mode like Six Sigma into your business, for instance, means there is an annual expectation for return on investment improvements that the organizations are measured against and that there are resources in place to help the organizations achieve their goals or even exceed their objectives. In my opinion, these are the processes that need to be implemented across the organizations that make up a pharma business to support ongoing innovation and transformation.

Pharma Logistics IQ: Why is it important for pharma companies to step out of their comfort zones to successfully achieve innovation?

JG: The idea of businesses existing in a ‘steady state’ is simply never going to be reality. Most pharma businesses are not quick enough to react to the reality that markets are changing constantly and that this creates new threats and new opportunities for them.

The companies that understand how to adapt in a progressive way, and have embedded this mindset, will always be the ones to benefit from the opportunities created from uncertainty. Using the Covid-19 crisis as an illustration, this situation has forced many businesses out of their comfort zones, making them address external exogenous factors that have disrupted ‘business as usual’. Yet, in pharma we still haven’t really seen much of an innovation culture beyond the traditional innovation that occurs in drug discovery and development. Focusing more attention on fostering innovation in other important areas such as go to market business models, talent acquisition and development, customer experience, manufacturing and global supply and relentlessly pursuing ongoing operational efficiencies across the enterprise would be a strong compliment to the innovative new medicines the industry continually bring to the world. 

It is important to note that good organizations do not wait for external exogenous factors to prompt them out of their comfort zones. Many organizations are naturally disposed to looking for things that make them a little uncomfortable and try to think about how they would react to new challenges. I think that the Covid-19 pandemic has initiated what good organizations inherently do as their ‘business as usual’.

Pharma Logistics IQ: What does the pharma industry need to be aware of in order to continue its innovation efforts as the market evolves following the impact of Covid-19?


The pharma industry should be thinking about innovation at every level within an organization. Business model innovation, expense innovation and technological innovation have highlighted more effective ways of operating.

I think there will be innovation in more areas of pharma now, especially around the supply chain considering the issues that arose with global supply shortages during the pandemic. I’m not just making reference to drug supply, but also to improving innovation in lab processes and at manufacturing sites to ensure the market does not experience shortages in the future.

I anticipate 2021 will provide the industry with a unique opportunity to rethink many aspects of its business model. Markets are constantly evolving – there are those who will adapt and get or stay ahead, and there will be others who will wait for change to happen to them.

For more on how to optimize your supply chains end-to-end and maintain an innovation culture download Pharma Logistics IQ report, Responding to Covid-19 in pharmaceutical supply chains. Learn how to successfully transform your business by preparing for a digital future in supply chain management.