Examining LogiPharma 2019 – Top 3 symptoms you caught the life sciences supply chain bug

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With LogiPharma 2019 in the books, a big congratulations goes out to all the organizers, speakers, vendors and attendees for a successful event. LogiPharma 2019 featured a strong lineup of speakers and life sciences supply chain industry experts who delivered valuable and relevant content, spurring attendees to participate with passion while host (and former Premiership Rugby match official) David Kurk injected a good dose of energy and humor to keep things moving. Most impressive at this event was the content -- and we're not talking about skin deep, stick out your tongue and say “ah” level content. Speakers went deeper on their respective topics than a colonoscopy, which by the way, if you are around 50 years old and you haven’t done so, you really should get a colonoscopy, because symptoms can go unnoticed. Which brings me to my first observation of LogiPharma 2019: the people running life sciences supply chains care deeply about their patients.

Symptom 1: Heart rates increase when serving the patient

The most I can do to show I care about your health is give you a suggestion to get your colon checked. I know people who would still be here if they had taken that advice. If one person reads this and stops procrastinating on scheduling a most humbling exam, my career in marketing will have been a huge success. It was clear this group of life sciences supply chain industry peers truly care about their patients. They’re doing much more than making suggestions like mine. You didn’t have to look far to find statements such as, "Our mission is to save lives," or "Our goal is to eradicate disease and make lives better." Much research and commitment is going into developing and delivering personalized medicines. Cost to serve was also top of mind for attendees and the need to provide a better understanding of the financial side of the industry. The poster child for showing how much this industry truly cares would be the collaboration between a number of governments and the private sector including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation known as the Global Fund. Global Fund's mission is to end AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis by 2030. They have already saved 27 million lives and are looking to save another 14 million lives in the next two years. They are “saving lives at scale.” The challenge for the Global Fund was extending their supply chain to the most remote parts of the world. More on that later on but they are letting nothing get in their way.

Symptom 2: Anything that impedes you from serving your patient may cause severe allergic reactions

Imagine the kid with the peanut allergy surrounded by other kids with Reese’s peanut butter cups, a person with celiac disease being offered a beer or someone going into anaphylactic shock. All of these situations drive action. The same is true for life sciences supply chain experts. Much of the stage time for presenters were dedicated to the discussion of the current challenges in the pharma supply chain as well as what improvements are needed. Tamas Masztis, Senior Director of Supply Chain for Kite Pharma described the innovative CAR-T cell therapy for cancer patients and it sounded like the “who’s on first routine” for life sciences. With this therapy, the patient is both the customer and the supplier. Cells are extracted from the patient, brought to the lab, re-engineered to recognize and attack cancer cells and then delivered back to the patient for injection. There is no other supply chain as unique as this one. Temperature, timing, and few supply options with no buffer inventory to satisfy demand are all risk factors along with the fact this is a high touch supply chain requiring extremely talented individuals. Another industry risk there is no getting away from is the management of product launches. Coordinating regulatory approvals with the ability to manufacture could make or break capturing market share. Early approvals could cause a struggle to ramp up manufacturing capabilities. Late approvals may give you more time to prepare manufacturing but could leave you with high capital resources sitting idle. Then there’s the unexpected risks. Craig Kennedy, Senior VP of Supply Chain for MSD recounted their experience when they were hit with a ransomware attack in 2017. In just 15 minutes, 90,000 computers went down. Prior to the attack, MSD made some significant supply chain improvements. Line fill rates went from 84% to 96%, backorders were significantly low and they established an end-to-end planning organization in a cloud-based advanced planning system. They were well prepared when the cyber attack hit, yet it still took a year to fully recover. Then, in 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The storm resulted in an accelerated adoption of technology. For example, MSD used drones to fly over the destruction while using temperature controlled packaging to deliver lifesaving medicines across the island. Regardless of risk, supply chain professionals are in the middle of managing through the impact. As Dan Hoey, SVP Global Supply Chain for Teva stressed, risk and volatility are only going to increase, for a number of reasons. The way Hoey described it, it reminded me of a drug commercial listing all the side effects: Demand will increase, 4.5 trillion doses worldwide by 2020, up 24% from 2015 including an increase in new medicines. The aging population, chronic disease burdens, new technologies and the digital revolution were just a sample of the supply chain risks to plan for now.

Symptom 3: Brexit will cause dizziness

There are diseases that unfortunately you don’t always know the effect of treatment or how long it may stay in remission. The pain may end immediately or you may have to live with it for years after treatment. That’s Brexit.

A panel of life sciences supply chain experts including Colin Seller, VP Network and Operational Excellence, Brexit Lead for Pfizer, Karine Javelle, Director of Supply Chain Planning for Baxter and Caroline Panah, Senior Director, Head of Brexit Manufacturing and Supply Strategy at GSK talked in depth of how they are preparing for Brexit. The first question moderator Jonathon Marshall from PwC asked, is Brexit actually going to happen? Jonathan reviewed the timing along with several outcomes, from no deal, options for a revised deal to a reverse Brexit. In other words, if anyone knew what’s going to happen, they weren’t in the room. (We found out afterwards there is going to be a further delay.) Even if it’s not clear when the full grip of Brexit will take hold or what the extent of it will look like, companies like Pfizer, Baxter and GSK are taking action now to minimize the dizziness. Because the list of side effects is painful. Companies need to plan their supply chains to absorb more invasive custom checks. One strategy is to stock pile inventory for the UK, but this would be at the expense of other markets because of limited capacity. Then there's the challenge of expiring inventory goods are not positioned properly. And there will also be changes in regulations that apply to more than just the movement of goods. A conference poll question showed that 50 percent of companies in attendance are spending over $5 million on preparing for Brexit while over half of those companies are spending in excess of $10 million. What makes this problem even more severe is we don’t yet know when things will happen. This money could very well be the best money spent or have less impact than a placebo.

What’s the cure for risk, volatility and complexity?

Eliminating volatility and risk in the life sciences supply chain is impossible. Managing doesn’t have to be. That’s why many sessions included talk of improvement, innovation and best practices. For MSD, a cloud-based supply chain planning system was a critical factor for managing through the ransomware attack since it wasn’t impacted by the event. They couldn’t get access to their SAP system for two weeks and without an alternative the pain would have been unbearable. They became closer to their suppliers and customers, but in a decentralized way. Had they not started down the path of supply chain excellence, the impact could have left permanent scars. The Brexit panel strongly urged end-to-end visibility of your product and network. Brexit is certainly forcing a better understanding of the supply chain. When something happens, having a connected network will allow users to respond as fast as dispatching a 911 call. As Chris Dyson from Nokia predicted, “Time is the currency of the future.” You may be asking, why is someone from Nokia presenting at LogiPharma? The impressive thing about the life sciences industry is they realize they are not best in class when it comes to supply chain. LogiPharma turned to the likes of P&G, Airbus and Nokia to join them to deliver lessons from other industries. Now, as promised, more on Global Fund, who had the challenge of reaching the most remote parts of the world to deliver their medicines. Phillipe Francois, VP, Supply Chain for Global Fund educated the audience on their collaboration with Coca Cola to form Project Last Mile. You can find Coca Cola anywhere in the world, so why not leverage the logistical juggernaut to deliver medicines and vaccines to sub-Saharan African countries?

Innovation will be required to win

LogiPharma 2019 also included talk of the bi-modal supply chain the need to perform and innovate at the same time. Supply chain innovators will need to try new things and test quickly to see if they work. Continuous improvement and the adoption of disruptive technology is needed to stay ahead of the competition. LogiPharma hit it out of the park on the depth of content. A simple examination through a blog post will not come close to covering the level of the material delivered in LogiPharma, but I hope it sparks some curiosity to seek out a diagnosis for your life sciences supply chain challenges. I'm already looking forward to the next LogiPharma. Which is a lot more than I can say about my next colonoscopy.

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