The coronavirus pandemic brought to light many supply chain issues for businesses in a wide range of industries, but supply chain issues related to life sciences and medical supply have become critically important over the past several years. We all remember the days of hearing about things like protective face masks and gloves being in short supply and how the vaccine rollout was being phased to keep demand under control. Preventing those types of situations from happening again means having to overcome a lot of unique challenges.
Life Sciences Supply Chain Challenges
One of the most significant challenges facing the supply chain for life sciences is the fact that ordering processes can be very inefficient and outdated, sometimes involving print catalogs and orders placed over the phone or through a fax machine. Some suppliers may not even have an ecommerce website. And even if there is an online ordering option, databases can be massive and people are often frustrated by issues like inadequate search functionality, lack of pricing transparency and difficulties finding information about product performance.
There’s also the fact that the supply chain in this industry is extremely fragmented. While there are certainly a few big names people tend to associate with the industry, the work done by those big companies is fueled by work done by smaller laboratories. It’s also extremely common for companies to rely on many different suppliers, sometimes even thousands of suppliers, from around the world to produce a single product, so delays from any one of those suppliers can slow down a product’s overall production.
Ensuring quality throughout the chain is of particular importance to the industry. Many medications depend on being stored in very specific conditions to ensure they will be as effective as possible when they reach the patient. COVID vaccines are a recent example. The initial vaccine rollout raised awareness of the concept of cold chain infrastructure used to keep temperature-sensitive products in appropriate conditions during transport. While cold chain distribution is not a new concept, it brought attention to the fact that many places in the world lack substantial storage for medications that need more than standard refrigeration.
On top of the supply chain challenges unique to the life sciences industry, there are also the concerns that businesses in many other industries are dealing with, including rising material costs, compliance violations, unpredictable demand, and supply and labor shortages.
How Technology Can Help
Digitalization of the life sciences supply chain can help these businesses work more efficiently and, in turn, improve patient outcomes. Having access to the right digital solutions can increase visibility, improve demand forecasting, control costs and support risk mitigation.
Bristlecone has deep industry expertise in the life sciences industry, providing supply chain digitalization solutions for businesses focusing on healthcare, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Our solutions are driven by speed, transparency, connectivity and resiliency.