How Agile is Your Life Sciences Supply Chain?

Andrea Charles

With an increasing appreciation of the benefits of an agile supply chain in the Life Sciences community, from diagnostics and medical devices companies to pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers a flexible, responsive supply chain is fast becoming a popular sight. However, in such a highly regulated market where supply chain integrity is a key factor for success, adopting an effective approach to documentation and implementation becomes more important than ever.

Supply chain agility is described as an operational strategy focused on inducing velocity and flexibility in the supply chain.

The Agile Supply Chain can be defined by the four basic elements:

In the turbulence of the current economic climate the agility of the supply chain can mean the difference between success and failure when responding to global changes in product demand. Dave Alberts, Director at Crimson & Co, said to Pharma IQ: "Further down the Life Sciences supply chain, it is now recognised that demand and market volatility requires significant improvements in how operations perform. Alongside the plethora of cost cutting initiatives, agility is now also a key focus to help drive profitable growth by; quicker product launches, fewer stock outs and subsequently, reduced service issues."

In a paper on " The Agile Supply Chain : Competing in Volatile Markets", Martin Christopher from Cranfield School of Management, UK, highlighted how the current economic climate has impacted companies, and how they are now being forced to rethink their supply chain management strategies and key to survival is agility:

"Turbulent and volatile markets are becoming the norm as life-cycles shorten and global economic and competitive forces create additional uncertainty. The risk attached to lengthy and slow-moving logistics pipeline has become unsustainable, forcing organisations to look again at how their supply chains are structured and managed".

As the patent cliff looms and pharmaceutical manufacturers move away from the big blockbuster drugs towards personalised therapies, supply chain stakeholders will also need to respond effectively and readily to needs of their customers to remain competitive. With current unpredictability of global customer demand, agility is now being recognised as an important tenet of the Life Sciences supply chain in the boardroom.

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