This is particularly true today when many are experiencing higher levels of risk in the run up to Brexit. In the healthcare arena, supply chain risk is also a risk to patient wellbeing – and can sometimes even represent a risk to life. The existing economic, manufacturing and regulatory risk factors faced by the pharmaceutical industry that were already growing year on year and have been compounded by ongoing political uncertainty. Now, those responsible for managing supply chains in the pharmaceutical sector must not only guard against counterfeit drugs, ensure compliance with ever-stricter regulations and enable complete traceability, they must also have robust contingency measures in place to make sure patients in both the UK and Europe can access the medicines they need, no matter what happens on 31st October.
Every month 37 million packs of medicine arrive in the UK from the EU, with 45 million moving the other way. With Brexit now only three short weeks away, the pharmaceutical industry has been working hard behind the scenes to prevent a disruption to supply. The short-term challenge will be to fulfil demand. The longer-term challenge will be to keep cross-border supply chains operating efficiently and cost-effectively. It’s an unfortunate fact for the industry that tariff costs could potentially add up to £50m a year to the industry’s operating costs, depending on the type of deal the UK is able to secure. It’s difficult to predict exactly how supply chains will be affected until customs arrangements are decided. Continued membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and a shared ‘rule book’ of standards would certainly protect the future of the UK’s pharma businesses, as would measures to protect data flow between the UK and EU. But with much of this beyond the control of individual businesses, what else can they be doing to safeguard their supply chains during this difficult time?
Here are three things Altius believe should be on the action list:
Building better supplier relationships often begins with a shift in perspective. The procurement role must expand beyond purely operational concerns to become more strategic. Choose suppliers whose values align with your own and aim to create a culture of mutual trust and loyalty. Reward quality and reliable delivery with your own focus on brilliant communication and timely payments – and make sure your suppliers feel able to come to you with any concerns they may have. In this way, you are more likely to receive advanced notice of potential disruption and be able to work together to mitigate risk.
At a time when there are so many disruptive forces at work, the ability to make faster, data-driven decisions across complex supply chains is invaluable. The pharmaceutical industry is one which understands the power of data. Unfortunately, while businesses have been quick to harness this power for R&D purposes, they are often lagging behind when it comes to utilising data for better supply chain visibility. If you haven’t got the technology or capability to make improvements in-house, it might be time to look for an expert partner who does. Be sure to choose one that understands the challenges you face – and can shape their solutions around your individual needs. Optimising supply chain visibility now will give your business more resilience during the upheaval ahead and will also help you boost performance and operational efficiency to mitigate whatever potential cost rises the future brings.
Compliance is a core concern of every pharmaceutical business. Despite this, many organisations don’t have reliable processes in place to audit suppliers for compliance on an ongoing basis. If monitoring supply chain compliance is something you don’t have the resources to do well, it’s worth considering outsourcing to a specialist – particularly as there’s ample potential for regulatory shift during this time of transition. A failure to prioritise compliance right across the supply chain is a significant risk for any business but a particular risk for the healthcare sector, and outmoded manual processes could jeopardise the safety of your supply chain and your business – not to mention the safety of end-user patients. Data and connectivity are once again invaluable here, to provide you with transparency and give you one less thing to worry about.
Altius has the experience, resources and systems you need to make your supply chain safer, more reliable and more competitive. We truly understand the importance of operating with honesty, transparency and integrity and are committed to supporting businesses during the uncertain times ahead. If you’d like to talk about your supply chain concerns, please get in touch.