RRD Supply Chain Solutions: bridging the supply chain gap
Healthcare is in the midst of a fundamental shift as technology advancements are enabling the connectivity of mobile telecommunications with traditional elements of the industry’s supply chain.
The new technological possibilities are driving exciting innovations and new paradigms in patient monitoring, care and delivery that help lower healthcare costs and improve outcomes.
Companies from traditionally separate industries are converging to capitalize on this potentially lucrative market including healthcare providers, telecom network operators, medical device companies, independent software vendors, health insurers, original equipment manufacturers, and others. Given the complexities of the connected care ecosystem, new partnerships and business models are expected to become the new normal as companies seek to differentiate and maximize the value of their solutions.
With this evolution also come significant challenges, particularly across company supply chains. Some of these key challenges include:
The handling of medical, telecom, IoT and technology products requires a complex array of unique facility, process, personnel, quality system, IT system, and security system certifications, qualifications and ongoing validations. The complexity, cost and time to properly meet these requirements are often underestimated.
Handling medical products comes with a strict set of regulations, with specific accreditation and certification requirements unique to the life sciences supply chain environment. Supply chains that are traditionally oriented to support non-medical products face daunting challenges in modifying and certifying legacy facilities, systems and personnel to support medical device handling and distribution.
Unique and variable distribution licensing requirements across different states and countries introduce a range of challenges and costs associated with tracking and supporting the unique requirements of different medical product and pharmaceutical categories.
As traditional systems and emerging cloud-based healthcare ecosystems evolve, data security and patient data privacy matters are becoming more complex and sensitive. Finding the right partners with proven, best-in-class systems and processes is imperative.
Product and data accuracy in the connected care space are just requirements, they are critical imperatives that can carry life and death implications when mistakes are made.
Because the connected care ecosystem involves such a broad spectrum of elements across traditionally distinct industries, each with their own capital and resource-intensive components, partner relations are key to rapidly optimizing your current supply chain to transform these challenges into opportunities for success.
RRD has the global infrastructure, scope, capabilities, and expertise to design and implement connected supply chain solutions perfectly tailored to your company’s unique challenges. Our decades of proven supply chain expertise, combined with our credentials in both the medical device and telecom industries, makes us the ideal consultative resource for companies entering the connected care space. Not only can RRD design and implement vertically integrated supply chain solutions, we can help you navigate your way through the connected care challenges that exist outside of your primary area of expertise.
OUR SERVICES AND EXPERTISE INCLUDES:
• Materials management, sourcing, procurement and packaging materials
• Managing original design manufacturers and suppliers
• Creative packaging design
• Product assembly, testing configuration, labeling and serialization
• Globally integrated supply chain systems for execution and collaboration
• Order management and multichannel fulfillment
• Reverse logistics management
• Disposal of unusable product
• Network activation, device management, and Security Services for onboarding and operations
• Device qualification and validation
• Regulatory compliance
• Pharmaceutical licensing
• FDA registered (Class I-III) and cGMP/QSR compliant
• ISO13485 accredited facilities in North America, Europe and Asia
• 21 CFR part 11 compliant, MES with full eDHR capability
• Full track and trace
RRD Supply Chain Solutions is a leading global supply chain provider that delivers value‐add solutions to multiple sectors. As part of RRD, we offer a broad suite of capabilities including packaging design and production, sourcing, configuration, kitting, fulfillment and after‐market services.
For more information, visit www.rrd.com/services/business-support/supply-chain
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”