Time for pharma supply chains to go digital

Businesses at the forefront of digital transformation will eventually flourish, capitalising on new technologies. Thakur Anup Singh, Group CMD, Marg ERP, reveals more

A pharmaceutical supply chain is complex, highly regulated, and has a wide reach. The incredible volume of data involved with manufacturing, storing, selling, transporting, handling, distributing and regulating drug products is staggering. Capturing this valuable data and transforming it into actionable insight to better manage the vast network of pharma manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies etc., is very crucial. The businesses that will eventually flourish are those at the forefront of digital transformation, capitalising on these new technologies — while those who do not will lag.

Digital technologies have not been fully accepted by the pharma supply chain yet. Though moving to a digital pharma supply chain will eventually eradicate error-prone, manual processes which waste time and money but because of the traditional methods used by pharma sector, it still has a long way to go.

Like any other industry, pharma industry also has to evolve with the fast-changing times and embrace the digital revolution in its entirety. Big pharma companies in India should have comprehensive knowledge about their supply chains from end-to-end. They should not be slow in adopting supply chain digitalisation as compared to their consumer goods counterparts. Supply chain can often get stymied by a lot of rigours. The digitalisation of supply chain helps pharma companies to have far more significant insights. Given the manifold advantages of digitalisation, the pharma companies cannot remain resistant to such changes for long. Adopting end-to-end transparency is more important.

With increased dependence on outsourced contract manufacturers and third-party logistics suppliers, the lack of visibility across the various entities of the supply chain has never been overcast. Couple this with the inherent demand unpredictability of abnormal and unexpected demand from anywhere in the world and the mismatch of supply and demand creates an increasingly unstable value chain scenario. R&D can be improved by bringing real-time technology to stand on clinical trials, and the supply chain could benefit from better sales and operations planning. This would bring better productivity, inventory ranks, and service levels.

End-to-end automation is capable of cutting down on errors caused by human intervention and leads to process improvements. Automation involves the use of sensors in areas such as prediction of demand and optimisation of production schedules. It also anticipates and automatically prevents manufacturing failures.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, and big data can have remarkable effects on supply chains. Automation, independent of human operations or manual interventions, can streamline supply chain management. Predictive demand algorithms, assisted by AI, involve making use of the data collected to make apt and prompt decisions about various stages, such as production schedules, raw material allocation, distribution, etc.

Pharma companies, while leveraging predictive data in its supply chain management by partnering with big data companies, should aim for a fully automated and self-driven supply chain system with minimal human interventions. In the long-run, the effective usage of such disruptive tools can go a long way in saving time and lead to cost-effectiveness. Most importantly, it can help companies to bolster business scale-up, go-to-market strategies, and time-to-market, eventually leading to faster realisation of better revenues and outcomes.

Artificial intelligenceMarg ERPpredictive dataThakur Anup Singh
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