Collaboration leads to a stronger pharma supply chain

The structure of business is changing, in the pharmaceutical trade as much as any other. As the globalization of trade enhances access to opportunity and growth, equally it throws up new challenges to overcome. Today’s challenge? Siloes.

In times gone by, perhaps, a business would seek to do everything in house: HR, recruitment, accounting, telecommunications. Now, however, it’s become much more common to find external specialist suppliers, like e-invoicing provider Tungsten Network, to fill these roles.

“These are crucial functions, necessary for not only growth and expansion, but also the basic day-to-day running of a business, so it’s vital that a business is able to rely on these external agencies to deliver,” Ruud van Hilten, Tungsten Network’s SVP Sales, said. “What we’re seeing more of, therefore is a network approach. Businesses can no longer expect to operate in a bubble, micro-managing every single element.”

Instead, collaboration is coming to the fore, as demonstrated by a report from PwC. Detailed in Pharma 2020, an examination of what the future looks like for the pharmaceutical industry, is why every company needs to work closely with a broad range of influencers and stakeholders – from academia to governments, competitors and, inevitably, suppliers.

Pharma 2020 points to a future where pharmaceutical companies in particular should seek to cut through the barriers between different business units and organizations. Like every industry, pharma is facing rising customer expectations combined with a tighter focus on costs, and to meet this challenge head on, agility and flexibility are an absolute necessity.

As Steve Arlington, Global Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Advisory Leader for PwC, said when discussing the report’s findings, pharma companies in particular could benefit from adopting a culture that accommodates partnerships; “a culture that allows you to promote working across different networks and working across different organizations”.

Tungsten’s Ruud agreed with Steve on the report’s findings and said he believes “true” collaboration comes from allowing others into the decision making process: “Close-knit cross-industry relationships is something we are seeing more and more of from our position at the heart of global trade.

“We manage the flow of invoices between suppliers of goods and services and the buyers of those goods and services. Last year, the value of transactions the network handled came to in excess of £130 billion in the financial year ending in April 2016.”

The role of a business like Tungsten isn’t just in handling invoices, added Ruud, it is in contributing to frictionless business processes. By automating invoicing, for example, conversations between buyers and suppliers can move beyond when bills are going to get paid and onto the planning for the future.

Closer collaboration earlier on in the decision making process, therefore, helps suppliers to the pharmaceutical industry plot where to focus their knowledge and expertise, with an end product in mind that they know their customers want or need.

As Ruud concludes: “Closer collaboration means agility and flexibility right the way through the supply chain, putting all involved on the path to success.”