Apple and Google 'will have big impact on pharma supply chains'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 September 2014

Technology companies such as Apple and Google are going to impact pharmaceutical supply chains in the future, a conference was told.

Vincent Dunne, head of international supply chain at Shire Pharmaceuticals, said products including the Apple Watch and Google Glass, which include sensors and health apps, would change the industry.

“Apple and Google are moving into the life sciences area. That will really have an impact on the supply chain in the future,” he said.

Speaking at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference in London, Dunne said regulatory requirements put unique pressures on the pharmaceutical supply chain, such as the patient information leaflet that must be included with all drugs. This necessity meant high inventory levels were not desirable because the information that must be included on the leaflets can change on a regular basis.

Dunne also said pressures were put on the supply chain by the shelf life of new drugs, which was typically 18 months to two years, compared with longer time periods for established medicines.

He added work began at Shire three years ago to overhaul supply chain processes by addressing scalability and flexibility, visibility of demand and inventory and compliance issues.

“We put a team together and looked at how we could improve our supply chain,” he said. The work included tackling shipping notices and purchase orders. “We wanted all that automated,” said Dunne.

He said following the work they had reduced inventory levels, including one product by 33 per cent with no impact on supply.

Dunne said 95 per cent of product manufacturing at the company was outsourced because contract manufacturers were more “geared towards long runs with little variation”.

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