Express Pharma

Future-ready supply chains

The COVID-19 pandemic has several lessons for India Pharma Inc as it embraces new strategies and technologies to rebuild and fortify its supply chain

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The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a radical overhaul in supply chain management, especially in the life sciences sector. Faced with challenges unprecedented in scale and scope, the sector had to reassess its approaches and strategies to contain and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on its global supply chain.


Over a year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as the world starts to plan for recovery, it is time to revisit the lessons learnt about supply chain reliability and risk and take stock of the measures being undertaken by the pharma industry to build supply chain resilience.   


Especially so, since it is becoming evident that disruptions are likely to increase in regularity and scale, caused by varying factors including emerging pathogens, geopolitical events, climate changes and public health disasters.


The supply chain of the future will be defined majorly by the following characteristics: 


Flexibility and agility 

As closed borders, nationwide lockdowns triggered fears of drug shortages on a global scale, highlighting the dangers of over-reliance on few sources of supply, the pharma and healthcare sectors were forced to adapt and innovate to develop local capacity and secure local supply.


The importance of improving operating and supply chain models were also highlighted since increasing volatility across the world demands a supply chain that has the flexibility to tackle spontaneous or sudden challenges or opportunities. At the same, it also has to evolve continuously to stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape.


Thus, a key lesson for supply chain management was the need to create and implement agile strategies which will help in eliciting a rapid and effective response to changing market demands; have the capacity to tailor products and services delivered to customers, the ability to produce and distribute products cost-efficiently, curb manufacturing costs and boost competitiveness.


Interestingly, since the onset of the pandemic, there are also several instances in India’s pharma sector wherein companies began to repurpose their capacity to start manufacturing products that are in high demand. For instance, India became one of the key global suppliers of sanitisers, PPE kits and hydroxychloroquine, once touted as a game-changer drug against COVID-19. 


As Sudarshan Jain, Secretary-General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance reminds, “The COVID-19 pandemic has put the pharma industry on a transformational journey. As a trusted global healthcare partner, India has shown tremendous reliability to ensure a continuous supply of quality medicines, including those essential for the treatment of COVID-19. No drug shortages were reported domestically, and Indian pharma companies were able to meet global demand as well.” 

This business agility will be crucial to success but to make such turnarounds easily possible companies should take concrete steps to improve their capacities and capabilities. 


As Rishabh Bindlish, MD, India Life Sciences and Global Generics Lead, Accenture advocates, “In crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic combined with macroeconomic and regulatory risks, supply chain planning and execution of operations need to be tightly integrated to drive business value. Building resilience with robust scenario-based planning and execution capability will be vital for business continuity and growth.”


Customer centricity

In the present day, customers have to be at the centre of every business strategy. This is true in the case of supply chain transformations as well. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of a responsive and adaptable supply chain for the life sciences sector with different endpoints of delivery and information sharing, to ensure that drugs and daily necessities reach those who need them at the right time. And, this would be possible only by comprehending the changing expectations of customers. 


A report from Accenture titled, ‘A license for growth: customer-centric supply chains’ informs, Supply chains have traditionally been seen as drivers of efficiencies and scale, providing competitive cost advantage. In recent years, though, the role of supply chains has evolved beyond efficiency to growth.” 


It adds, “In the aftermath of COVID-19, we expect customers to continue to demand an experience in which supply chains respond with a higher purpose.” 


Bindlish elaborates, “Given the current challenges, customer-centricity of business is no longer an option but a necessity. This becomes even more critical for the supply chain as it plays an important role in connecting customers and the operations team. A customer-centric supply chain is a key to unlocking differentiated service offerings that drive revenue growth, improve EBITDA performance, and meet unique customer needs.”