From lab to patient: Overcoming five key challenges in life sciences supply chains

September 6, 2023 | 4 minute read
Joan Lim
Senior Manager, Product Marketing
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The life sciences industry encompasses pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical devices, and plays a pivotal role in medical discoveries, treatments, and technologies that improve human health and well-being. But beneath the surface of breakthroughs and advancements lies a complex web of supply chain challenges that can significantly impact the efficiency, reliability, and accessibility of life-saving products.

From drug development to patient care, a seamless and efficient supply chain is the backbone that supports the entire ecosystem, and for ensuring the availability of essential treatments, diagnostic tools, and other critical medical supplies. Identifying potential risks, both internal and external, and developing contingency plans can mitigate the impacts of uncertainty and disruptions. Let’s go deeper into supply chain issues faced by the life sciences sector and explore potential solutions to ensure the seamless flow of essential products.

Addressing the top five critical supply chain challenges

1. Demand volatility

Demand forecasting and planning can be challenging due to rapidly evolving market dynamics, emerging diseases, and shifts in customer and patient needs. Overestimating or underestimating demand can lead to issues such as stockouts or excess inventory, both of which have significant financial and health-related consequences.

Responding proactively by being able to sense, predict and analyze demand will improve visibility and manage variabilities, while evaluating the impact of demand changes, such as the cause and effect of seasonality and shelf-life limitations can strengthen supply chain resiliency.

2. Shipment and inventory visibility

Balancing inventory levels to ensure products are available when needed without incurring excessive safety stock and warehousing costs can become a delicate task. For perishable products like medications and vaccines, maintaining the right stock at the right location and at the right time is critical.

Achieving end-to-end visibility, from inbound logistics of raw materials, in-transit shipments and warehouse inventory is crucial in ensuring the process is efficient and sustainable. Embracing digital technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and machine learning can enhance real-time monitoring within the supply chain with more accuracy. This ensures that all stakeholders have visibility into the movement and condition of products.

3. Globalization and regulatory compliance

Stringent regulations in the life sciences industry add complexity to the supply chain. Each product must meet rigorous quality and safety standards before reaching the market. The process of obtaining necessary approvals and certifications can cause delays, especially when regulatory bodies introduce changes or when compliance issues arise.

By centralizing regulatory compliance and screening for restricted parties, organizations can enforce global trade regulations and corporate policies and reduce operational risk.  

4. Product sensitivity and cold chain logistics

Many life sciences products, such as pharmaceuticals and biologics, are highly sensitive to temperature, humidity, and handling conditions, and require specific temperature conditions to maintain their efficacy. Maintaining a controlled environment throughout transportation and storage will ensure the integrity and safety of these products, and deviations from recommended conditions can render products useless, leading to financial losses and compromised patient care.

Implementing a connected logistics solution that is able to monitor real-time temperature conditions of shipments while in-transit and within the dock and yard, as well as provide full visibility into inventory at the warehouse can mitigate risks associated with handling temperature-sensitive products.

5. Supplier and partner reliability

Developing stronger collaborative networks among stakeholders can enhance transparency, communication, and coordination across the supply chain. Adapting a supply chain command center that integrates data sources with external market signals allows organizations to gain multi-tier visibility across their supply chain networks.  

Counterfeit drugs also pose serious threats to patient safety, reliability and trust within the life sciences supply chain. Employing technologies like blockchain and track and trace intelligent systems can enhance transparency and traceability, reducing the risk of counterfeit products reaching patients.

Leveraging the power of the cloud-based technologies

As the industry continues to innovate and produce groundbreaking solutions, the importance of a resilient and adaptable supply chain becomes even more evident. With Oracle Fusion Cloud Supply Chain Management (SCM), organizations can respond quickly to disruptions, and seamlessly connect your supply chain to create a resilient network by leveraging cloud-based technologies that allow companies to easily manage sensitive and competitive data that range from manufacturing specifications to distribution schedules with accuracy and efficiency. Automating processes can minimize inaccuracies and human error, and implementing regular release updates with minimal downtime will ensure the latest product security and capabilities are available to users. By leveraging innovative technologies, fostering collaboration, and embracing proactive risk management strategies, stakeholders in the life sciences industry can successfully navigate these challenges and ensure the availability of life-saving products to those who need them most.

Want to know more? Attend the “Plan Smarter, Execute Faster with Cloud-Based Supply Chain Management” workshop at the American Pharma Manufacturing and Outsourcing Summit on October 9-10, 2023. Register today!

Joan Lim

Senior Manager, Product Marketing

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