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Rebecca Lumley
22 May 2022

Planning for supply chain resilience 

Engagement-based strategy could increase resilience of pharma supply chain. 

The COVID-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on pre-existing vulnerabilities in pharmaceutical supply chains, as well as creating new issues. Now as the world recovers, longer lead times, shipping disruptions, product shortages, and rising costs continue to impact the sector.  

This was the subject of the presentation ‘Where’s the Sugar’ by Tom Wilson, Global Business Development Lead at Pfizer CentreOne, during CPHI North America last week. Wilson used the analogy of baking a cake and lacking the requisite ingredients to describe disruptions to pharmaceutical supply chains.  

He said: ‘When we think about the supply chain challenges that we’re facing right now, our expectation is that these challenges are going to be with us for a while. And it may not be the same challenge this month that it was a year ago. It may not be the same challenge a year from now or two years from now, but we do think there’s a great disruption taking place.’  

Wilson noted that disruptions are occurring in regional and global supply chains, are exacerbated by a shortfall in the talent marketplace, and cannot be remedied by simple solutions.  

He advised building resilience into supply chains by formulating an effective strategy, adding that this allows organisations to remain ‘agile and nimble’.  

‘If you understand your systems, you have the ability to know where your opportunities are in that system. You know where your risk factors are in that system, and you can adapt and mitigate to both,’ he said.  

Wilson noted that organisations can choose to adopt one of two main operating models – a procurement-based model or an engagement-based model.  

Wilson believes an engagement-based model, which hinges on transparency and fluid communication, allows for greater adaptability. 

What this entails, according to Gallup Supplier Engagement research, is that companies adopt a proactive approach to measuring and managing the emotional connections that drive supplier engagement. Research indicates that companies who do this can reap substantial economic gains - including higher quality, improved planning, improved product development, greater supplier support and value, and lower costs. 

‘The higher the degree of complexity, the higher the degree of specialisation, and the higher your value proposition is - then the engagement model is really something to strongly consider,’ Wilson advised, adding that if patients are ‘truly jeopardised by a disruption in supply, the engagement model is probably the way to go.’ 

A procurement-based model may work best for commodity purchases and off-the-shelf products, though Wilson noted that organisations would be well placed to have ‘a couple of source nodes when it comes to commodities.’ 

He recommended that companies assess which model most appropriately fits the organisation’s goals.  

‘I’ve always said I wish I had a magic wand for the times I can’t get something. There are no magic wands,’ he said.  

‘So it’s the more you know about your supply chain, the more you plan your supply chain – that enables you to understand where you can influence the supply chain. If you know where your risks are, you probably also know where your opportunities are.’ 

Finally, Wilson encouraged stakeholders across the supply chain to place patient impact front and centre, concluding: ‘There’s a patient at the end of every one of our supply chains and we should never forget that.’ 

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