How Healthy Is Your Supply Chain?


If you’ve ever looked up symptoms on WebMD, you’ve probably been told at least once that your death is imminent. There are a number of reasons for that. The tool only asks you a handful of questions and many of those can only be answered through multiple choice. It doesn’t have your full medical history, know your lifestyle, or ask about your family’s medical history. On the other hand, a health care professional will take all these factors into account and use extensive experience and education to diagnose you. Just as you consult experts for your health, so too should you consult experts when it comes to the health of your supply chain.

Life sciences supply chains are unique. Pharmaceutical and medical device are even more so. Finding out industry standards and how your supply chain can improve are important questions that shouldn’t be answered by the equivalent of WebMD’s symptom checker. A more reliable source is Gartner’s recent report, “Supply Chain Benchmarking Data Reveals Differences Between Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturers.” For a deep dive, you can access it here. For a sample of what’s inside, keep reading.

A Pacemaker for Medical Device

One of the pharma/med device differences highlighted by Gartner is that of inventory obsolescence.

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Enjoying this article? You may also like this Gartner report:

“Supply Chain Benchmarking Data Reveals Differences Between Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturers"

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Med device usually struggles in this area. Gartner speculates that this might be due to the size of the companies’ portfolios. Pharma companies typically have fewer products in their portfolios and introduce products less frequently. It’s more likely for a medical device company to release a new product that makes an old one obsolete, hence a problem with inventory obsolescence.


One possible solution to this problem comes with digitization and investments in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Oversupply can occur when there’s a disconnect between supply planning and product development. Another problem comes with a dependence upon historical trends, which don’t take recent industry developments into account. AI/ML can help in this area by using information from the industry and the manufacturing line to predict which products will become obsolete, when that will happen, and how many should still be produced to meet demand.

A Prescription for Pharma’s Problem

Pharma has its fair share of supply chain problems, one of which is work in progress (WIP) inventory. Gartner suggests that this is due to the distinct manufacturing processes in pharma. Making the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), preparing the final dosage form (FDF), and packaging are steps in the same process, but are frequently treated as three distinct supply chains. This isn’t surprising but can be avoided with more planning and better coordination.

Part of that planning means getting all your manufacturing processes on the same system. Manufacturing software brings together all aspects of manufacturing a pharmaceutical. By bridging the gap between API, FDF and packaging, pharma companies can eliminate the problem with WIP inventory.

Time for a Checkup

Even a healthy supply chain needs the occasional checkup. Part of that checkup is knowing best practices and industry standards so you can see how your supply chain compares. Such a pivotal part of your business deserves the insights that experts bring to the table. This is just a small sampling of such insights that are presented in “Supply Chain Benchmarking Data Reveals Differences Between Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturers.” You can access it here to learn more about how these two industries can improve supply chains, their strengths, and areas for improvement. Once you know how the industry’s faring you need the proper tools to tell you how you’re faring.

When a you get a checkup, your doctor doesn’t just listen to your heart. Every aspect of your health is taken into consideration. So, it’s no surprise that you can’t get a complete picture of how your supply chain is doing by just looking at manufacturing or quality. To get the holistic view on your supply chain’s health, you need software solutions on the same platform across your company. A platform approach brings your data together and ensures you have complete, up-to-date information so you can make the most informed decisions.

2019-bl-author-sarah-bealeSarah Beale is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl in Salt Lake City, where she writes white papers, website landing pages, and is a frequent contributor to the company’s blog, GxP Lifeline. Her areas of expertise include the nutraceuticals, cannabis, and food industries. Beale has been writing about the life sciences and health care for over five years. Prior to joining MasterControl she worked for a nutraceutical company in Salt Lake City and before that she worked for a third-party health care administrator in Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration from DeVry University.