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2023 year in review: Four key trends in pharma supply chains

The year 2023 saw an array of trends impacting pharma supply chains, from developments in technology like Intelligent Automation to redefining what sustainability looks like for pharma companies. Here, we take a look at some of the trends that shaped the year and how Controlant responded.

Four photos for the 2023 year in review article

Leaders had a lot to ponder—and act on—in 2023. To close this year and look ahead to 2024 and beyond, explore how Controlant's insights on four crucial themes are fueling impact every day.

Digital transformation: IA takes centerstage

Technology is at the forefront as companies grapple with how to be more efficient, sustainable, and cost effective. The pharmaceutical industry is changing how it approaches automation. While artificial intelligence (AI) is the tech buzzword du jour, a focus on intelligent automation (IA) has greater, more immediate potential to add value in the supply chain.

The growing impact of IA

Pharma executives are increasingly interested in the potential benefits of IA and virtual care. PwC found in a recent survey that 79% of pharma executives believe that intelligent automation will significantly impact their industry in the next five years, and funding for virtual care has already increased dramatically.

Organizations like hospital networks or warehouses typically use IA sparingly to build work processes or use learning abilities to anticipate customer needs. While IA is programmed with built-in logic, it also learns as it is implemented. The more intelligent automation is used, the better the results. Implementing IA can be transformative for pharma companies in:

  • Providing real-time visibility across the supply chain
  • Reducing costs
  • Increasing efficiency and accuracy
  • Removing bottlenecks
  • Improving compliance
  • Streamlining quality control

Talking about digital transformation

Controlant addressed the benefits and challenges of digital transformation at conferences around the world in 2023. From presenting at LogiPharma 4.0 Connect in Montreux in November alongside Teva Pharmaceuticals' Val Pétursson on how their partnership has created value from real-time control tower intervention, to sharing the stage with J&J’s Samir Gami during the keynote: Transforming the cold chain through an enterprise ecosystem at LogiPharma US in Boston in October.

Pharma companies now have the technology to collect more data than ever before, resulting in huge, complex datasets. While cloud-based scalable databases make it easier to filter key insights, manufacturers need sophisticated control towers to make sense of the data. Having a strong software foundation to deal with this new data is vital.

Quality: the impact of clinical trial decentralization on the pharma supply chain

Technological advancement has made decentralized trials more appealing than ever and is a highlight for the quality segment of the industry as the pharmaceutical industry must learn to adapt to their growing role.

Clinical trials require precision and faultless execution for hypotheses to become therapies. For most of pharmaceutical history, this has made the potential benefits from outsourcing elements of these trials elusive. But that is changing; technological and cultural shifts mean decentralized research – where part or all of a clinical trial is conducted remotely – is on the rise.

Decentralized and virtual clinical trials on the rise

Uptake of mobile healthcare, wearable devices and web-based technologies mean decentralized clinical trials make up around a third of overall trials. The number of virtual trials, which increased 50% year on year between 2020 and 2021, continues to rise and evidence suggests the frontiers of the global clinical trial map are expanding. 7,000 more clinical trials take place each year in the Asia-Pacific region compared with a decade ago, and 1,200 more in the Middle East and Africa. Decentralization will enable further expansion as researchers and patients connect across ever greater distances.

Controlant can help smooth the transition for pharma companies, providing the right solutions and know-how to make sense of this data influx throughout the supply chain.

Sustainability: Reimagining sustainability in pharma supply chains

Controlant continued on a journey in 2023 toward becoming a sustainability leader for pharma supply chains. Medicines and vaccines are an essential part of our society; however, we can’t afford to ignore the vast amount of waste generated by the pharma industry.

Reducing pharma waste

An estimated 30% of all vaccines and medicines are wasted as they travel from production to the patient, and approximately $35 billion is lost every year due to failures in temperature-controlled logistics.

Vicki Preibisch, VP of Sustainability at Controlant, shared insights into Controlant's steps to reduce waste in pharma supply chains at a tech conference in Iceland hosted by the IT services provider Advania in September.

Systematically measuring our sustainability performance gives us the data and insight to report in a transparent and credible way on the progress made. In fact, Controlant measures over 180 environmental data points in its own operations and uses internationally recognized platforms to report its progress, including the Climate Disclosure Project, the EcoVadis supplier rating and the UN Global Compact Communication on Progress. This enables all of our stakeholders to make more informed decisions.

A shared culture of pharma innovation

Our partnerships with pharma and logistics companies benefit from a shared culture and commitment to drive innovation and achieve results, including sustainability. When we took to the stage at the Gartner Symposium in Barcelona in June with Pfizer’s Roger Smith, our presentation was about how a culture that embraces the impossible delivers unimaginable results. In this case, it delivered vaccines with a 99.99% success rate – a win for sustainability and global health.

Next-generation supply chain: how pharma companies are making their supply chains more efficient

Traditionally, the risk-averse pharmaceutical industry has been reluctant to make substantial changes and slow to adapt to innovative technologies, even for inefficient processes with enormous scope to be automated and optimized. But by working with pharma companies to closely monitor each link in the supply chain, companies in 2023 have been able to roll out solutions that significantly improve efficiency.

A growing number of companies are seeking a next-generation pharmaceutical supply chain platform, with a vision of zero-waste supply chains. At its core is the digitalization of critical supply chain data, enabling real-time monitoring and end-to-end visibility. It enables companies to immediately respond and make informed decisions when bottlenecks crop up, minimizing product rejections and downstream effects.

Partners in real-time visibility

Partnerships are another crucial part of maintaining a healthy supply chain. For logistics companies looking to meet customer needs for real-time, data-driven decision making, solutions like Controlant’s can be the best and fastest gateway to supply chain visibility. Hristo Petkov, our VP of partnerships joined the UNCAGED Show in August to discuss creating a healthy supply chain for a healthy world.

Working with a trusted partner like Controlant helps pharmaceutical and logistics companies deliver real enterprise value by bringing the benefits of automation into their supply chains today.

Building on these insights from an exciting 2023, we’re looking forward to continuing our journey of eliminating waste across pharma supply chains in 2024.