Supply chains key to successful COVID-19 vaccine roll-out 

Resilience in pharma and biotech supply chains is essential for the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine, says Karl Lauri, ERP/MRP software manufacturer and distributor 

While the pandemic has highlighted the strength of the UK’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector, it has also shed light on the vulnerabilities of intricate, geographically extended and time-critical supply chains which needs to be prioritised. An efficient ERP/MRP ‘backbone’ will make identifying, controlling and mitigating these weaknesses possible for the smaller companies that make up 80% (2018) of the life sciences supply chain ecosystem, rather than being exclusive to ‘big pharma’, says Lauri.  

He says that SME ecosystems are volatile, and as there are often scientific or market constraints on scaling up production, even within big pharma, where units may enjoy corporate services in sales, marketing, and securing regulatory approval, they may operate similarly to small companies from a manufacturing perspective. 

Developments in therapies such as genetic and cell-base treatments suggest a personalisation of therapies, batch size may be that of an individual patient’s requirement, and the short life and vulnerability of biological (as opposed to chemical) substances drive a requirement for on-demand production as close as possible to the point of use. This means small-scale production is likely to become even more significant in the future, Lauri adds.  

He says that meticulous regulatory requirements and precise resource planning are a necessity for small firms, and synchronisation with suppliers, contract manufacturers, logistics operators and with clinical end-users must be seamless. Other factors include security, both physical and cyber. He believes an ERP/MRP system can underpin this activity, and while it does not need to be over-complex, it must allow the finest detail over multi-layer Bills of Material, upload and download seamlessly with other systems and with other supply chain partners, record and retain large amounts of manufacturing data, and produce reports that give clear and early warning of problems and deviations. The system also needs to be simple and intuitive in operation. 

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