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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Automatic Future

The importance of well-documented compound databases and solid administrative systems is becoming more prominent as manufacturers seek to stake a claim in a tightening marketplace

Pharmaceutical manufacturers face a range of issues unique to their business. Managing a large drug compound inventory and disparate production sites, while at the same time trying to improve production efficiency, comply with industry legislation and respond to market demand is a set of problems that few industries have to face at once. While many manufacturers have learned to live with these issues, they often forget the drain on resources that can result. However, by identifying the issues and implementing the correct IT solution, pharmaceutical manufacturers can dramatically increase efficiency, boost profits, grow the customer base and reduce wasteful practices.

Giving Customers What They Want

While only one in every 10,000 discovered compounds actually becomes an approved drug for sale, pharmaceutical companies are under huge pressure to look for any opportunity they can to drive efficiency throughout the manufacturing process. Much expense is incurred in the early phases of developing compounds that will ultimately never become approved drugs. Given that the speed with which a manufacturer can respond to a customer request can often mean the difference between winning the business or not, having an overview of the drugs available provides real competitive advantage. However, all too often there is no overarching database of compounds available. While the production department might have a database, the sales team wonít necessarily have visibility of this, making it much more difficult to quickly convert specific customer demands into sales.

Depending on the nature of the drugs being distributed, pharmaceutical companies often have to comply with stringent conditions associated with the storage and handling of their product inventory. Furthermore regulatory bodies continue to be extremely vigilant of the manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry to improve the safety and quality of drugs being produced. If the manufacturer does not have an accurate database of current regulations, and the steps that need to be taken to ensure compliance, they run the risk of failing to satisfy the demands of regulatory bodies and facing the tough penalties these bodies administer, which can have all kinds of implications for the long term viability of the company.

Improving Processes and Efficiency

Compared to manufacturing in many other sectors, creating drugs is a omplex process. Sequence dependant production means there are numerous steps required to go from raw materials to a drug ready for sale. Each step requires several pieces of equipment that then need deep cleaning before they can be ready for the next job. For a large pharmaceutical manufacturer that has hundreds of jobs on the go, the administrative work needed to orchestrate this is massive. When this is spread over several geographical locations, the chances of this process going wrong become much more likely. For example, if a piece of specialised equipment is double-booked, it could result in a delay on a customer order. Without in-depth demand visibility, backed by a complete overview of the status of all the equipment needed to produce a particular drug, the sales team simply canít provide an accurate forecast of when a customer can expect to receive their order. This could result in customers choosing another manufacturer that can guarantee when the products they want will be delivered.

Of course, managing processes of this level of complexity is much easier said than done. For the team tasked with booking jobs it can involve many wasted hours, while using standard spreadsheet programmes can lead to errors. Moreover, without access to the spreadsheet, it is difficult for other departments to get an up-to-the-minute view of the manufacturing processes that are underway, and those that have been scheduled. An investment in specialised resource planning software can ensure that as little time as possible is taken for allocating equipment to manufacturing processes, and avoid equipment being double-booked. While many manufacturers might feel that they are working effectively without a specialised system, the initial investment will be repaid many times by the increases in efficiency delivered.

Crossing the Great Divide

The manufacturing processes and facilities behind the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals will often be spread around the globe. Emerging economies such as China and India for example have become manufacturing hubs for pharmaceutical companies headquartered in the UK, while many UK companies will also have their research and development divisions located in other countries, such as Switzerland and across Europe. This means that three key parts of the business are located in different regions of the world. From a purely logistical point of view, this can create many problems given the different languages, time zones and currencies involved.

For pharmaceutical manufacturers however, the biggest issue relates to the disparate IT systems found at each site. If local subsidiaries are using a completely different resource planning solution to that of the headquarters, the likely result is inefficiency and waste across the entire business. One example is when a subsidiary using a legacy ERP system needs to send a financial report to the global CFO, who will likely be using a modern ERP solution. The subsidiary will often need to consolidate its reports before sending them, while the IT team at the HQ then needs to convert the legacy report into a format the modern software can use. The whole process can take weeks, and means that the CFO is never able to get an accurate and up-to-date forecast of the subsidiaryís results. Where a separate global office doesnít use any form of ERP software, then any reports from the subsidiary will need to be re-entered into the ERP system, wasting the time in administration and increasing the chances of errors entering the reporting process.

Siloed ERP systems spread across several sites globally simply canít provide the HQ with an efficient and timely report of the state of the business. With the right system in place however, the management team can obtain a thorough overview of all aspects of the business, allowing them to pinpoint and remedy problems before they happen, and ensure that all areas of the business are working together effectively.

The current global economy is presenting pharmaceutical manufacturers with a wealth of problems. With margins shrinking, it is harder than ever to manage and grow a global pharmaceutical business. This isnít made any easier by the inherent problems that these companies face as a result of being a large organisation with many sites worldwide. And without any kind of integrated IT solution to bring the disparate elements of the business together, growing the customer base, increasing profits and improving efficiency is much more difficult than it needs to be.


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Wayne Dewsnap comes from an accounting background, having spent several years with a £1 billion-rated retailer heading up their project accounting team. He moved into the business systems arena 18 years ago, and during that time has worked within a number of major ERP vendors in a variety of consulting, business development and management roles. Wayne is the managing director of Exact UK, and has been with the organisation for five years. Email: infouk@exactsoftware.com
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