Roughly half of pharmaceutical companies have deployed supply chain visibility solutions, but many of them say they are dissatisfied with the results and are looking for more robust solutions in light of challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey released this week.
Supply chain technology firm FourKites partnered with IT services and consulting firm Accenture to determine the effectiveness of visibility strategies across the pharmaceutical supply chain; they interviewed 100 pharmaceutical industry executives and detailed the results in a recently published report, The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain: Closing the Visibility Gap.
Among the findings, 90% of respondents said they plan to implement more robust digital supply chain visibility solutions over the next year, and nearly half cited security and temperature reporting as the biggest problems when it comes to monitoring their supply chains.
“Many existing visibility solutions fail to account for the unique nature of pharmaceutical supply chains, including cold chain shipping, raw material availability, security of shipments in transit, stringent temperature and quality control measures, and high inventory costs,” according to the report. “Covid-19 further highlighted the acute need for visibility at every node along the pharmaceutical supply chain.”
Excursions–losses from pharmaceuticals exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range–amount to billions of dollars each year in the pharma industry. Greater visibility across a product’s journey can help alleviate those losses, according to the research.
“Only end-to-end supply chain visibility and insights can provide pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare providers with the adaptability, precision, and agility needed to provide the best patient care and to reduce waste,” Mathew Elenjickal, FourKites’ founder and CEO, said in a statement announcing the survey results. “Proactive notifications and continuous monitoring of vaccines and other supplies are the best way for manufacturers and vendors to ensure a product doesn’t fall outside of recommended temperature ranges.”
Survey respondents pointed to quality assurance, customer satisfaction, and operational performance as key issues they want to improve, as well. Sixty percent of survey respondents said they consider quality assurance the key driver for enhancing security and visibility requirements, followed by more than half who said they are focused on improving the customer experience, and 40% on improving operations.
Nearly 40% listed supplier compliance, product visibility, and timing in transit as key obstacles in their supply chains.
The survey results reflect a broader growth trend across the pharma supply chain as well. FourKites—which company leaders say tracks more than two million shipments a day across its global customer base—has seen a 40% increase in tracked shipments for pharmaceutical customers in the past six months, along with a 20% increase in carriers serving pharmaceutical customers, and a nearly 50% increase in total miles traveled by pharma customers.