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Life Sciences Supply Chain Challenges

A functional supply chain is the cornerstone of any business and it’s also a core function of a life sciences organization.

The disruption of the pandemic highlighted several endemic issues. This is why many businesses are finding it difficult to evolve quickly enough to tackle supply chain uncertainties.

Here we'll explore some of the common issues within supply chains. We’ll also consider the strategies, the life sciences business solutions, and technology trends in the life sciences field that are being used to meet problems head-on.

Supply Chain Compliance Factors

Supply chains are complex, lengthy, and affected by a vast range of factors. 

But when it comes to life sciences supply chains, the biggest influence factor is the regulations they are required to follow.

Failures can be catastrophic. They create immediate revenue loss, delay product launches, and incur remediation expenses. So, enterprises need to install safeguards and shore up delicately balanced supply chains.

Critical Problems In Life Sciences Procurement

There are many frustrations when it comes to product procurement in the life sciences field. Emerging tech and innovative Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) offer a solution to many of them.

We'll look at the critical obstacles of conventional supply change management below.

Compliance Measurement

There are many regulations to follow within the life sciences industry. Measuring adherence and quantifying control measures is less than straightforward.

Without specific metrics to track, it can be tough to achieve complete end-to-end visibility.

Inventory Control

As demand ebbs and flows, procurement managers need responsive, analytical inventory management systems to:

  • Monitor inventory levels
  • Manage stock thresholds
  • Initiate restocking requirements
  • Predict forward demand
  • Triage logistical needs to establish priority

Complex Supply Chains

Supply chains in life sciences are surrounded by competing complexities, creating a balancing act between changing market demand and reliance on third-party organizations.

A devolved supply chain structure can present a significant control issue, mainly where governance and risk management are concerned.

Other intricacies within the supply chain environment include: 

  • Intellectual property factors
  • Varying taxation structures
  • Emerging new products or therapies
  • Short product life cycles
  • Changing models for healthcare delivery

Variations within the global landscape, such as export bans or shipment withholding, create an added layer of complexity.

Remote Work Environments

Like much of the workforce, remote working has become the norm, requiring digital communication solutions to ensure staff can continue to be productive from a distance.

Further workforce issues include protecting staff on-site in a swiftly changing safety scenario.

Successfully Implementing Change

Regulatory frameworks are notoriously rigid, and so implementing successful change can take considerable effort.

Technical change is also often costly and can pose additional challenges in life science business operations.

Speed Of Regulatory Updates

Regulators continue to release new regulations, with increasing compliance oversight and enforcement controls.

This capacity for sudden change can be unmanageable for life science organizations to respond to while experiencing supply chain efficiencies.

Responding To Life Sciences Supply Chain Challenges

In many ways, the difficulties of the pandemic have been a wake-up call, spotlighting supply chain vulnerabilities and allowing businesses to pinpoint areas for priority improvement.

Rapid adaptation and the ability to pivot quickly are hugely beneficial for the long term to enable firms to respond to accelerated change.

Many of these issues are best tackled with technological innovation, harnessing the power of existing tools to combat supply chain weaknesses.

Collaborative Working

While regulators were restructuring focus, capacity, and resources to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, there was a delay in many product approvals, causing ongoing supply chain issues.

The lesson learned is that open communications with regulators are crucial.

Likewise, collaboration with policymakers and government officials is beneficial to ensure an understanding between participants in the life sciences industry.

Supply Chain Restructuring

Businesses can overcome some issues by building contingent supply chain pathways. 

Localized supply chains may have proven a short-term solution during the crisis, but the longer-term need is to build inventory management systems to circumvent potential delays.

Continuity planning can mitigate the impacts of most crises, by sourcing new strategies to deal with a wide range of potential problems.

Mitigating Supply Chain Issues With Digital And Data

All of these potential solutions rely on two things:

  1. Active Data Exchange: incorporating real-time inventory information metrics.
  2. Digital Communications: which offer responsive, adaptive, and accessible technological communications.

Digital transformations have the potential to reinvent delivery models across the life sciences field, shoring up long-existing gaps in supply chain management and preventing many of the issues faced during the global pandemic from recurring.

As the industry evolves and traditional distribution models become further outdated, the time to adopt transformative digital strategies to reconfigure life sciences supply chains is now. 

For further reading, check out our other articles like Is SAP an ERP System.

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