Posted on: 27th April 2017

Launched in response to a request by biopharmaceutical manufacturers and suppliers, the Supply Partner Phorum (SPP) is designed to bring together both parties to work together to tackle and solve issues with the inbound supply chain; an area of vital importance throughout the Biopharmaceutical Industry.

The SPP provides a trusted environment for both parties and it is easy to see why manufacturers benefit from working with the suppliers: it leads to a better understanding of the whole supply chain and the source of their raw materials; it creates a better way of working together to meet the challenges of material  demand and supply and is an area where improvements and increasing collaboration can benefit both individual companies and the industry as a whole as we seek to meet the capacity and capability challenges  of the future.  

Marin Henley, Manager Capital Equipment Sourcing at Bristol Myers-Squibb, summarises the role of the SPP: “This phorum represents the ability of biopharma manufacturers to interact with our suppliers and to do so on a pretty even playing field meaning that there is no inhibition in terms of communicating back and forth as we share the same goal of making the industry better”.  

The SPP is developing and, as it matures, is starting to address areas of non value added waste seeking to reduce, or potentially eliminate these, to improve efficiency and quality. It is also beginning to look at the scope for the SPP to act as a catalyst for change and a source of education across the Industry in areas of mutual interest between drug manufacturers and supply partners.

After its first successful year in operation, the phorum has commissioned  two distinct, yet related, SPP workstreams: Forecasting and Demand Planning and Supply Chain Mapping. Each workstream has, currently, some 20 different companies engaged with representatives of both biomanufacturers and supply partners sharing their knowledge and experience. Henley summarises the goal of the phorum’s two workstreams:“We’re working right now on creating position papers for the industry on both supply chain forecasting and supply chain mapping where we can leverage best practices and highlight issues that both biopharma manufacturers and our supply base experience and understand where there are opportunities for improvement”.

Forecasting and demand planning (FDP)

This workstream was established to address some of the critical issues  that can arise through a lack, or potential lack, of supply of critical products to manufacturers; an area of particular concern as global capacity demands increase.  Establishing a ‘common language’ and sharing openly the processes and underpinning assumptions are  key elements in the progress already seen with this workstream. The recent face to face meeting in April 2017 demonstrated the value of simply increasing understanding between drug manufacturers and supply partners by discussing, and challenging, the processes and the actions taken by subject matter experts..

Forecasting and demand planning operates at 2 levels. Firstly,  at the individual company interaction with their supply partner. Secondly, in areas of demand that could, potentially,  be consolidated across the  industry with a critical question to consider: if  there is enough capacity in the industry to support the provision of critical raw materials to meet anticipated demand growth?   The supply chain must be capable of dealing with the demands that the industry makes of it and if, as industry experts predict,  there is going to be  significantly more demand generated for raw materials and services in key areas of the inbound supply chain as overall capacity demands increase, will existing systems and processes be sufficiently agile and robust to meet the challenges ahead?  At the recent Face to Face, the workstream started to map out a “high level” model of a possible future forecasting and demand planning process. The aim is to now refine and build on this model with the intention of publishing a best practice guide in this important area for use across the Industry toward the end of 2017. While implementation and adoption will undoubtedly provide a challenge to be overcome, the sense is that this workstream can act as a catalyst for an increasingly standardised approach in the Industry as we develop and adapt our supply chain processes to meet the capacity challenges of the next few years.

Supply Chain Mapping (SCM)

There are increasing pressures on the Industry to gain greater transparency and visibility throughout the supply chain from original raw material source through to the final product and including the  various “touch points” involved throughout.  The Supply Chain Mapping workstream was commissioned by the SPP as a response to this Industry wide need and seeks to understand the current state of the Industry and to then design a ‘model for good’ that can be incorporated into a best practice guide for supply chain mapping in biopharma.   It has, so far, proved both a fascinating, if challenging, journey to seek to understand the different levels of maturity of supply chain mapping across the Industry and to begin to identify areas where, perhaps, we might seek to align interests and processes as the Industry further matures. The workstream has some 20 companies represented with a great mix of experience and expertise representing drug manufacturers and supply partners.

There are many reasons for examining and then accurately mapping the supply chain  ranging from ensuring continuity and security of supply to compliance with legislation from the FDA or its European counterparts and to ensurance of patient safety.  These issues extend beyond the source of raw materials to how they are stored and transported and effective supply chain mapping must therefore embrace the totality of the supply chain; a complex and challenging task which the SCM workstream is currently about half way through in the program to deliver a best practice guide. .   

In the longer term both SPP workstreams  are looking at solutions that the industry could implement and the scale of adoption and implementation will, in part, be a measure of the success of the work being undertaken.

The Supply Partner Phorum is a developing phorum with membership still open to those biomanufacturers and suppliers who want take part in the collaboration.

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