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FASTNET FIRST-HAND- COVID 19 and Life Science Supply Chains


By Danielle Francois

2020 has been a year of shocks. Shocks to our economies, shocks to how we interact at an interpersonal and social level and of course shocks to Supply Chains all over the world. The COVID-19 Pandemic has arguably been the biggest shock to Supply Chain since globalisation really took hold 25 years ago. Since March the Life Sciences industry has grappled with not only the immediate challenging effects on Supply Chain such as volatile production forecasts, interrupted clinical trials and shortages in the areas of Medical Equipment and PPE, but have responded rapidly and opened up paths of progress and opportunity in the future. Supply Chain which has previously been perceived as a function that happens somewhat behind the scenes is now in the limelight.

The response by industry has been inspiring and encouraging with companies pivoting to work from home solutions quickly for their staff to ensure safety to manufacturing sites have impressed with their moves to ensure essential workers safety on site. Visibility throughout the Supply Chain has improved and will continue to do so underpinned using data and digital solutions and collaboration between companies within the industry and government has never been more crucial. Challenges have been responded not only with the immediate reaction but also with a view to the future. According to reports compiled by McKinsey and Deloitte uncertainty will see capabilities being built rapidly that can cope with the uncertainty and change that the future will bring.

One of the trends that have emerged from the pandemic is the move to swift collaboration between companies within the industry and with the industry itself and regulators and governments. Typically, strict competition laws will prevent companies from working too closely together to gain footholds in specific markets. In Europe, various bodies and commissions have moved quickly to set up processes to enable willing participants to share commercially sensitive information that can contribute to modelling for Supply and Demand for essential medicines. It is this open sense of collaboration between industry and academia that has allowed for the swift development and trialling of the various vaccines we hope to see on the market soon. According to Chris Ross, Head of Integrated Supply Chain at Merck who was recently interviewed by EPM Magazine “We are seeing these efforts move much faster, and it appears the appetite to move swiftly for public health is welcomed by all parties. We always make sure that our partnerships with industry players meet our goal of collaborating with the global scientific community and accelerating access to health “

COVID-19 has called in to question the resilience of Supply Chains and a variety of trends will likely emerge from this crisis including a major diversification in supply bases and a move to regionalise supply chains from the more recently accepted mode of Globalisation.

The pandemic has sped up the move to digitising Supply Chains and will in essence be the competitive edge that digitally literate companies will gain over non-literate companies. AI will have big implications in how we use machines and interact with them to enable an efficient digital supply chain

The impact COVID-19 has had on Supply Chain Management in the life sciences sector has been seismic. An agile and innovative approach will now be imperative as the life sciences sector embraces a digital future in a more demand-driven, efficient global supply chain.

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