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The supply chain of medicines smart

The protection of supply chains in biopharmaceuticals is a priority for companies that ensure access to life-saving products. This report examines the reasons for the transformation of the supply chain and the role that AI can play in its digital transformation.

The reasons for the transformation of the supply chain biopharmaceutical

The supply chain of biopharmaceutical includes all of the complex steps necessary for the production of a drug, supply, and the supply of the components, through manufacturing and distribution, up to the delivery to the consumer. This cycle is the thread that connects the discovery of new therapies to the patients who receive them (figure 1).

Figure 1: the different stages in the supply chain of biopharmaceutical

Supply chains for biopharmaceuticals must meet the expectations of a complex set of stakeholders, including governments, payers, healthcare providers, regulatory agencies, and national and international patients whose needs are complex and varied. Given the international nature of the supply chain and its role in ensuring that people have access to products that save and improve lives, the protection of its integrity is a priority. However, if some firms in the sector of life sciences have explored the opportunities offered by digital technologies, many of them still need to take steps consistent, sustainable, and daring to take advantage of new capabilities.

Figure 1: the different stages in the supply chain of biopharmaceutical


A huge amount of data is generated throughout the supply chain of biopharmaceuticals without, however, being, in general, sufficiently exploited. The use of technologies of artificial intelligence used to treat these data will be essential to support decision-making in real-time, orchestrate operational efficiency, and, ultimately, create a supply chain cost-effectively and dynamically. We have identified five areas in which AI is likely to have the greatest impact.

  1. Visibility of end-to-end
    visibility of the supply chain means access to the data related to each transaction, and at the outbreak of the request, at all stages and at all levels, as well as the movement of logistics intermediaries. This concept can be applied through the control towers of the supply chain that function as centers of gathering data from disparate systems and are used for monitoring, auditing, and the generation of information.
  2. Demand forecasting, inventory management, and logistics
    data accurate real-time inventory levels are needed to unlock the value of the supply chain and provide patients with fast, reliable access to their therapies. The use of technologies of AI advances, in particular predictive analytics, can help keep track of medicines throughout the supply chain and facilitate interventions that are proactive and quick in case of a problem.
  3. Intelligent automation at the service of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of things
    , digitalization and intelligent automation processes can help businesses to put in place cost-effective, reliable, and robust coordination throughout the supply chain. The intelligent automation of processes can mimic human interactions, and make complex decisions based on the results of the input robot, which allows to minimize of human errors, improving the measures of performance, and generating strategic information.
  4. Optimize maintenance planning
    The disruption of operations due to compliance issues, safety, or quality of production is a challenge that biopharmaceutical companies often have to overcome. It is possible to minimize these difficulties by means of the maintenance forecast based on AI which provides information on the performance of manufacturing, including equipment failures, or other problems with the aim of improving operational efficiency, including the availability of machines.
  5. To protect the integrity of the supply chain
    of counterfeit medicines or of inferior quality are a problem for the sector as well as global health organizations and society in general. However, for the biopharmaceutical industry, the importance of the integrity of the supply chain is beyond the scope of counterfeit products as the main types of products should be the subject of a “chain of identity” and a ” chain of control “. Therefore, companies are investing in the technologies of blockchain and AI to improve security, transparency, and traceability.

Role of AI to help the supply chain to respond, recover and thrive after the COVID-19

In 2020, the pandemic of COVID-19 has affected most of the links in the supply chain, a global biopharmaceutical, from the supply of raw materials to the distribution of finished products. With the containment of a large part of the world’s population, the closure of factories, and supply shortages throughout the supply chain network, supply will cause a significant disruption in the supply chain at the international level. Deloitte believes that the resumption of activities takes place in three phases (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Management of the risk of disruption of the supply chain biopharmaceutical due to the COVID-19

The companies that have developed and implemented risk management strategies of the supply chain and digital transformation in parallel with the adoption of strategies of business continuity will be better prepared to mitigate the impact of disruptions related to COVID-19. The operational processes based on AI should help biopharmaceutical companies to respond, recover, and thrive more effectively in the face of disturbances present and future.

Roadmap for the implementation of a smart supply chain

Over the next few years, AI is going to transform the business models in the sector. However, complete digitization requires time and strategic thinking; it also involves a fundamental transformation of the supply chain, linear-in-one network digital supply dynamic, interconnected and open based on the AI (figure 3). A technology roadmap for AI can be used to accompany the digital transformation of the biopharmaceutical industry (figure 4).

Figure 4: A technology roadmap for AI can be used to accompany the digital transformation of the biopharmaceutical industry

  • Start small, move fast, and think big

Biopharmaceutical companies need to identify priority pilot projects in order to get quick wins and build trust and membership. Once the implementation is validated, the companies can then extend the project to cover the whole of the supply chain.

  • Determine the internal factors of cost and value

The supply networks of digital can help the biopharmaceutical sector to generate more value, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and better use of capacity in the framework of its operations ” planning – procurement – manufacturing – delivery “. Businesses with a comprehensive knowledge of the factors of costs of their supply chain in each function will be better able to decide what pilots of technology AI should be a priority.

  • Build a blueprint of the architecture of the data

Intelligent management and optimized data are essential. Currently, its infrastructure is inadequate and the lack of interoperability standards is a significant barrier to the implementation of networks in the digital supply in the biopharmaceutical industry. Overcoming these obstacles by using technologies that are compatible with the IA can increase connectivity and improve understanding while ensuring the confidentiality of the data.

  • Collaborate and learn from other sectors of activity

In recent years, experts in digital technology from other sectors of activity have established several modes of collaboration to develop solutions for AI for the manufacture of biopharmaceutical products. The biopharmaceutical industry can also learn from other sectors of activity in acquiring their expertise and adopting their innovation models.

  • Acquire and develop the skills and talents necessary

The implementation of networks in the digital supply will require changes to roles and responsibilities, including the employment of a workforce that is more diverse. With the evolution of technology and capabilities, the employees of the biopharmaceutical sector will have to find a balance between the acquisition of new skills and the application of their skills current. For drug manufacturers who adopt a digital supply chain end-to-end hiring experts is a priority, in particular for the design thinking on AI.

  • Create a dynamic “win-win” situation between the industry and regulators

The regulatory environment continues to become more complex; non-compliance with regulations may harm the reputation of a business and can have legal and financial consequences are important. Many laboratories, biopharmaceutical begin to consider their own regulatory functions as a strategic asset and streamline clinical processes, qualitative and regulations in order to eliminate functional silos and improve compliance.

The future of supply chains based on the AI

The sector of the life sciences is ready to adopt AI which will allow him to effectively leverage its large sets of data and generate actionable insights. Biopharmaceutical companies also need to adopt digital solutions, advanced to meet the future demands of the market for therapies to be more precise and personalized. We consider that the passage of a supply chain traditional linear to a network supply digital, networked AI-compatible, and associated data completely interoperable, will help businesses to prosper. We also expect that as a result of the pandemic of COVID-19, the digital transformation of the supply chain is expected to accelerate at a pace and scale never seen before.

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