The global pharmaceutical supply chain grows increasingly complex every year, and pharma companies face a growing list of challenges that impact everything from manufacturing to supply chain logistics to the safe and secure delivery of medicines to patients. Globalization, personalized medicine, and serialization are just of a few of the challenges pharma supply chain companies need to contend with, even before the ongoing pandemic introduced widespread disruption As these challenges continue to mount, the ability to respond quickly to supply chain disruptions or opportunities is one of the key benefits of having an agile supply chain.
Supply chain agility is an organization's ability to detect and respond immediately to supply chain events. Agile supply chains are essential for effective response to a wide-range of supply chain events, including sudden changes in demand, unexpected disruptions, or even large-scale catastrophe's like a natural disaster, epidemic, or geopolitical event. In contrast, an enterprise that is unable to quickly respond to these types of supply chain events cannot truly be considered agile. Building an agile supply chain. that can easily handle even mission-threatening supply chain disruptions requires a number of key characteristics to be successful.
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Characteristics of an agile supply chain
Key characteristics of agile supply chain management include:
- Awareness. Does your organization have the ability to quickly detect changes, opportunities, and threats to your upstream and downstream supply chain? If you don't have visibility into issues, they can quickly snowball into full-blown disruptions before you are able to address them.
- Real-time data access. How does your organization locate and share relevant data? Pharma companies often have to contend with multiple, disparate silos of data that prevent them from getting to a single source of truth. Whether the data is locked in an ERP system, in a supply chain partners system, or somewhere in between in spreadsheets, emails, and other correspondence, real-time access to data is critical for supply chain agility.
- Rapid decision-making. Are you able to make decisions quickly using the available data? Having real-time access to date is just the minimum for true supply chain agility. If you're not able to share that data quickly between internal and external supply network partners, you're not getting the full value out of your data.
- Responsiveness. Are you able to implement decisions quickly? Seamless and structured collaboration with your internal and external supply networks can mean the difference between successfully meeting your goals and scrambling to bring all the different stakeholders together under duress.
- Flexibility. Do you have ability to adjust processes and operations needed to implement a sudden change in supply chain strategy? The 2020 pandemic demonstrated that even the best laid plans are all for naught in the face of large-scale disruptions. Even under normal circumstances, truly agile supply chains have the ability to quickly pivot to meet unexpected demand or disruption.
- Competency. Does your company have the ability and expertise to do things right the first time? Eliminating chronic issues that lead to disruptions should be a primary goal for your agile supply chain, leading to reduced incidents and, ultimately, lower cost of goods sold.
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Capabilities necessary for an agile supply chain
Building an agile supply chain offers huge benefits beyond traditional supply chain planning, but it does require specific capabilities to realize the full potential.. For example, supply chain agility can be built using advanced supply chain data analytics to actually forecast expected demand for outputs, rather than relying on traditional planning.
By increasing visibility between downstream and upstream supply network partners, companies can make a supply chain more agile. In traditional supply chains, every company or organization in the chain filters information and introduces resistance to the flow of data. An order from a customer has to work its way through a hierarchy or organizational structure before being translated into an order for more supplies. Companies that are trying to make a more agile supply chain may build automated systems that provide downstream order information directly to upstream suppliers, speeding processing times for orders and deliveries. This type of supplier collaboration can greatly increase supply chain agility.
Companies invested in increasing supply chain agility and reducing supply chain disruptions should focus on these key capabilities:
- Leverage multienterprise business networks
Multienterprise business networks can exchange information and collaborate faster and more efficiently with upstream and downstream trading partners, providing real-time visibility that leads to increased supply chain agility.
- Create a single source of truth for data
Demand data from downstream sources combined with upstream and internal data creates a powerful, single source of truth that can improve demand forecasts and help solve supply chain issues fast, before they become supply chain disruptions.
- Empower powerful data analytics
A multienterprise business network and a signle source of truth for data opens the door to powerful data analytics and intelligence that can help you answer questions that were impossible to answer when data is processed manually in spreadsheets or disparate silos throughout different organizations in your network.
- Structure collaboration for multienterprise work management
Eliminate email chains and telephone tag by establishing structured collaboration with your supply chain partners, which enables real-time information exchange about issues as they occur. Powerful cloud-based architecture can ensure that everyone knows what is happening, who has the next step, and knows when the issue is resolved.
- Sense demand across the end-to-end supply chain
Internet of Things devices can create a continuous stream of real-time data throughout your supply chain, allowing your upstream and downstream supply chain network partners to see data that improves the entire product lifecycle.
FAQs: What technologies enable an agile supply chain?
What technologies enable an agile supply chain?
An agile supply chain requires the seamless, real-time exchange of actionable data between supply network partners on a digital network platform.
Why doesn't every organization try to increase supply chain agility?
Companies have traditionally turned to Enterprise Resource Planning Systems and an over-investment in custom, manual solutions to solve supply chain challenges, but these types of solutions cannot reliably account for events that happen outside the organizations for walls and can limit, if not exacerbate, supply chain challenges. Agile supply chains require a level of collaborative work management, data-sharing, and network connectivity between supply chain partners, while at the same time maintaining the security and integrity of company data and intellectual property.
Who benefits from agile supply chains?
Organizations benefit by being able to respond more quickly to changes in their upstream and downstream supply chain, reduce disruptions, and drive down the cost of goods sold. End consumers benefit from increased reliability and availability of products.
How are agile supply chains more resilient?
There is an increase in supply chain resiliency when companies are able to rapidly adapt to changes in upstream and downstream conditions. Being able to continue to meet delivery windows despite supply chain disruptions makes the entire chain more resilient.