CASE STUDY

Lessons learned during the pandemic and how BioPhorum’s Risk and Business Continuity Management helped: Amgen’s approach to risk management

8 June 2023
Supply Resilience

BioPhorum’s Risk management in the biologic industry supply chain: a best practice guide was published in November 2020 to encourage industry to review its approach to risk management and to validate, refine, and improve current company practices.

We spoke to Melinda McCants, Senior Resiliency Officer at Amgen, and a long-standing member of BioPhorum’s Risk and Business Continuity Workstream, about her company’s approach to risk management and what it learned from the pandemic.

How did you manage risk and business continuity before COVID-19?

After the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan in 2011, we put a huge effort into understanding our supply base and building a risk management program. But when I started in 2017, I realized that while we had a good tool on paper, we didn’t have a process for what we would do in a disruption event. So, we documented the steps to follow, mapped our supply chain, and started working with our suppliers to define the actions needed. It meant we were in good shape when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017.

How did you manage during the pandemic?

At the start, we ran scenarios for China, Asia, and Australia and did some proactive ordering before the pandemic worsened. This significantly increased our safety stocks of materials. We also researched when a vaccine would be produced, the materials that would be pulled into the program, and how this might affect us. Then we added details of any at-risk materials to monitor to our monitoring process.

We also started collaborating more with our suppliers to understand how they were being impacted. We asked them to complete weekly surveys to input into our COVID-19 Tracker report on the materials potentially at risk. Once lockdown hit, we established monthly intelligence reporting and used Smartsheets to collate everything into a COVID-19 one-stop-shop for materials. At the same time, our global risk network held virtual weekly meetings with all our sites to understand how we were operating, potential supplier disruptions, etc.

What was successful for us was using our relationships with key suppliers to prioritize orders. We also improved our connections with secondary suppliers – we all recognized we didn’t want to order excess materials, as this was not sustainable. So, we used ‘control towers’ to look across our company to see who needed materials and whether we had them elsewhere so they could be transferred. And if a supplier told us, it was being impacted by rated orders or had limited capacity, we implemented centralized ordering

How are you doing things differently as a result of what you’ve learned?

We now see risk very differently than before COVID-19. What was often seen only as a localized, single risk is now being routinely viewed and assessed for its potential to become a global risk with lasting ripple effects.

For example, we have tried hard to improve our indirect communication. Before COVID-19, we used emails, and it was all ‘push’ communication. Now, we have a much better two-way communication process and use online tools such as a Smartsheet hub, which has become our team channel. If there’s an event that may impact us, we post a message on the channel and people can ask questions if they don’t see an answer.

Originally, there was a lot of focus on the sub-tier visibility of our suppliers, but COVID-19 showed us what’s more valuable is our relationships with our main suppliers and their relationships with their suppliers. While it is helpful to understand some sub-tier information, it is important to ensure the effort is focused on the high-risk materials. For materials that are easily procured the investment in subtier is not needed.

We also found that the reality for pharma is that we will always have a lot of single-source materials as it’s just not financially viable to have second sources because our volumes aren’t big enough.

How has being part of the BioPhorum workstream helped you?

BioPhorum’s work in this area has been important. When the first best practice guide was published on LinkedIn, it got thousands of ‘likes,’ which meant people had started understanding what needed to be done. There has been a real mindset shift.

Building relationships and sharing information in the workstream has been great and several of our suppliers participate in BioPhorum, so I have been able to benchmark what they are doing. For example, the contract for one of our tools was up for renewal last year, and I could leverage my BioPhorum contacts to understand what tools they used, what worked, what did not work, as an example.

I’m sure BioPhorum’s guidance will become industry standards. It gives you a platform to build on and lets you focus on key suppliers without asking them hundreds of questions. It says if you’re at point X, then do these actions; if you’re at point Y, do these. That’s very helpful for those just starting their programs as some third-party tools sell you the world, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The BioPhorum best practice guides do a great good job of suggesting that you start small and build things up.

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