Event Recap: Digitization of the Supply Planning Process

Many emerging and mid-sized biopharma companies work to digitize their supply planning process as they grow, as part of larger efforts to digitally transform and automate manual processes. In Converge Consulting’s ongoing work with clients, we have seen a distinctive gap for these companies: planning becomes too complex for Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, but the company is not prepared for the effort, investment, and complexity of planning in their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. As a result, emerging biopharma companies are often stuck either with insufficient features or with a complex and expensive integrated planning system that can overly-burden a small or mid-sized organization – and that in many cases still lacks important industry functionality.

Digitization of the supply planning process is one aspect of digital transformation.
Jasmine Liu is a Converge Consulting intern from Northeastern University. She supports projects in a variety of areas including supply chain and commercialization.

We recently hosted an online webinar to discuss the options available for digitization of the planning process and specifically the use of cloud-based digital solutions for bridging the gap between Microsoft Excel and complex ERP systems for emerging biopharma companies.

Digital Planning Solutions have a Gap

Todd Applebaum, Managing Director at Converge, described the gap in digital planning solutions that Converge has historically seen for life science companies. He briefly presented the landscape of digital solutions available. Then, explained the challenges faced by growing biopharma companies. Some stay too long on Excel-based planning tools. Others jump too quickly to ERP solution Planning modules or more sophisticated Advanced Planning Solutions.

Prioritizing Digitization of the Supply Planning Process

Robert Cantow, Supply Chain Practice Director from Converge, offered perspective on digital transformations. He explained key terms and identified the elements for building a successful digital transformation:

  1. Predetermined Strategy
  2. Thought-Out Operating Model
  3. Talent & Performance Management
  4. Data Transformation
  5. Value Assurance Loop-back

According to Cantow, there are three critical steps to completing a comprehensive digital transformation. First, set a strategic vision. Then, select your initial opportunities. Finally, build and sustain improvement.

He also discussed why many companies prioritize digitization of the planning process, as it enables faster and more accurate responses to changing conditions. Digital tools allow companies to “create more seamless capabilities to share data across the organization.”

Digital Transformation at Eiger Biopharmaceuticals

Marc Osterhaus, Supply Chain Senior Director at Eiger Biopharmaceuticals, presented his experience taking Eiger through a digital transformation of the supply planning process. The company was rapidly growing in both the U.S. and Europe with several commercial products. The planning environment was becoming too complex to manage on Excel. They considered using their ERP for planning, but ERP would take too long. It also lacked important industry functionality and would constrain Eiger’s agility to adjust as the business continued to change.

In the end, that ERP system wouldn’t be what we hoped for and by then it probably would be too late.

Since Eiger had already implemented about a dozen cloud-based solutions in other areas, Osterhaus began looking at cloud-based planning solutions for biotech and pharma companies. He selected ABC-Plan, a “light” cloud-based planning solution built specifically for the life sciences industry.

According to Osterhaus, the functionality of ABC-Plan supports this industry’s unique requirements, such as expiry management, lot-based tracking and effectivity dating for network changes. He emphasized the ability to conduct instant scenario planning – for which ABC-Plan serves as a single source of truth instead of having to export data manually for analysis and waiting for results. Other areas of functionality that drove the selection included comprehensive S&OP functionality, an easy-to-use graphical user interface, and simple data import/export. Osterhaus also emphasized the VERY quick implementation and setup – just a single day!

Osterhaus shared his lessons learned from the experience:

  • Have a roadmap for both short-term and long-term plans
  • Document needed requirements along the way
  • Do not be afraid to explore new technologies
  • Plan for the need to conduct internal selling in the planning stage
  • Manage expectations from the start
  • Demonstrate successes whenever it happens

He ultimately fielded questions from webinar attendees regarding cost of the solution, Eiger’s implementation, and data challenges. He revealed that the solution has saved Eiger both money and time, and not only was the implementation easy, transferring data was also “a piece of cake” from Eiger’s existing Excel spreadsheets.

Key Takeaways

  • Digitization of the supply planning process is a priority for growing biopharmaceutical companies to enable agility and better decision-making in a changing and dynamic environment.
  • New “light” cloud-based planning solutions are emerging to fill a long-time gap in the planning landscape. They sit between early MSExcel-based planning tools and the complex, expensive ERP and Advanced Planning Solutions.
  • Solutions such as ABC-Plan can offer built-in functionality to support this industry’s unique requirements, such as expiry management, lot-based tracking, and effectivity dating for network changes.
  • ABC-Plan offers growing biopharmaceutical companies an evolution path for digitizing clinical and commercial supply planning, and a more flexible and industry-specific solution for larger established biotech and pharmaceutical companies.