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Life Sciences Supply Chain Challenges: How ERP Helps

A reliable supply chain is an art as much as a science, especially given recent geopolitical concerns that have added trade friction and highlighted the brittleness of many existing supply chains. For life sciences businesses, supply chain management is even more challenging because there also are regulatory mandates that life sciences firms often must follow.

With life sciences businesses, spreadsheets are just not an option for supply chain management given the complexity. Instead, life sciences firms need an enterprise resource planning solution (ERP) to successfully negotiate the challenges.


Supply Chain Challenges

Before we get into how ERP helps, though, let’s look at some of the main supply chain challenges that life sciences firms face.

Strict quality control. Due to U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requirements, life sciences firms often must maintain strict sourcing requirements around identification and quality standards.

The inputs used for life sciences manufacturing cannot vary from specifications that a firm has proven during FDA validation. As such, life sciences businesses need greater tracking and tracing along the supply chain, and they must have backend systems that ensure that input substitutions do not occur except where defined and validated in advance.

Supply chain complexity. Everything about the supply chain in harder for a life sciences business. Alternate vendors have to be vetted more strictly, and internal rules around the use of alternate inputs must be defined and enforced strictly due to regulatory requirements around FDA validation. Intellectual property and cross-border rules around taxation and import rules must be followed and maintained as they evolve. Short product lifecycles add stress on supply chain management. Track and trace must be complete.

Inventory control. Shelf-life, the availability of manufacturing inputs and correct stock often is particularly important for life sciences firms. Managing inventory correctly requires real-time awareness of inventory levels both at the company and among its suppliers, stock threshold management, automated restocking triggers, forward demand prediction, and logistical triage for establishing priority.

Sophisticated inventory management not only is required for life sciences businesses, but also the need for coordinating these factors with each point in the supply chain.

Real-time visibility. Because of the exactness of sourcing and the regulatory requirements around product inputs, life sciences businesses need complete visibility along their supply chain.

The key challenges around visibility include the lack of a centralized view of the entire supply chain, and siloed systems that don’t easily talk with each other. Spreadsheets fail in this environment, and backend systems built for life sciences firms often don’t enable the level of systems integration with supply chain partners across a range of different software solutions that is required today.

Meeting Supply Chain Challenges with ERP

An enterprise resource planning solution (ERP) is all but required for life sciences businesses today due to these supply chain challenges mentioned above.

ERP is end-to-end backend systems software that integrates all aspects of operations and serves as the central nervous system for a business. With ERP, life sciences businesses can enforce supply chain requirements and get a full-picture of supply chain dynamics all along the chain.

How ERP helps:

1. Improves integration with supply chain partners. ERP can integrate with virtually all third-party software solutions. This enables greater integration with suppliers all along the supply chain, and created deeper collaboration that heads off bottlenecks and supply chain disruptions.

2. Provides comprehensive track and trace. With ERP, life sciences firms can monitor both inputs and finished products along the entire supply chain, ensuring that there is full visibility and the ability to spot variance or issue product recalls when needed.

3. Enforces Quality Control. With strict process and materials control, ERP can help life sciences firms ensure that all materials and processes meet quality specifications as required internally and by law, even with wide-ranging supply chain networks.

4. Delivers full supply chain visibility. Life sciences firms get a full, real-time picture of their supply chain when using ERP. With this full visibility, firms can discover efficiencies, head off shortages, better manage inventory levels, and spot supply chain opportunities that would otherwise go missed.


5. Enables automated reordering and inventory management. ERP can automate reorders, predict inventory needs, and automatically adjust production based on supply chain disruptions. Because ERP encompasses the full scope of a life sciences business and connects with supply chain partner systems, there’s greater scope for supply chain automation.


Is Your Supply Chain Smooth?

We’ve been helping life sciences firms and other businesses with supply chain management for more than 30 years as an SAP Gold Partner. If your business needs better supply chain management, contact us for more on how ERP can help. You can reach one of our experienced ERP consultants by calling (801) 642-0123 or by writing us at info@nbs-us.com.

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