Pharma Packaging of Tomorrow: Why Digital Supply Chains are Necessary

Digital supply chains are on the rise – for good reason. The advantages are obvious: better overview, fast delivery through predictability and easier quality assurance. The pharmaceutical industry and packaging manufacturers would also benefit from this and thus make their cooperation more efficient.

The printing and packaging sector is also involved in the growing pharmaceutical industry: Due to the increasing demand for drugs and healthcare products and the pressure to bring new developments to market quickly, it is also important that packaging can be produced flexibly and in a timely manner. The solution to this might lie in a digital supply chain. 

Structure of a Pharmaceutical Packaging

We encounter packaging in many areas of our lives – including when we have to take medication. They protect the contents and convey important and legally required information to doctors, pharmacists and patients. Labels and package inserts also contribute to the necessary information of the purchaser. Here, too, a  distinction is made between primary and secondary packaging. The primary packaging is, for example, cans or blisters that protect the medication. The secondary packaging (usually made of cardboard)is wrapped around them and provides the information. Based on this structure, individual complete solutions can be realized for every need.

Previous Process

Today, the procurement of secondary packaging materials is mostly carried out analogue: a manufacturer of pharmaceutical products plans sales and the resources and capacities needed for production at the beginning of a business year. However, the packaging supplier is not involved in this planning from the very beginning, but only when the manufacturer places a concrete order. Of course, the supplier can not react and manufacture the ordered packaging until an order has been received.  In order to do this, he in turn has to calculate raw materials and capacities, which is becoming an increasing challenge due to the ever shorter lead times in the pharmaceutical industry. These two supply chains run completely independently of each other. An exchange only takes place at the moment of order transmission and when the ordered goods are delivered.

Advantage of Digital Supply Chains

To counteract this, digital supply chains offer many advantages: by analyzing the shared data in advance, future requirements can be better predicted and thus served more quickly. Detailed information opens up new opportunities for customized products. The transparent exchange between companies, suppliers and customers makes the entire value creation process more accurate and reliable. Accordingly, a digital supply chain promotes sustainability and cost savings. In addition, quality assurance is also easier to design. In addition, automated processes also reduce analogue efforts.

Faller Packaging provides a detailed white paper on the topic of digital supply chains (German only) here.

“Digitization of the value chain is no longer a dream of the future, but already offers the pharmaceutical industry very concrete added value today.”

Nils Höpker,
Head of Logistic and Demand Management Operations EU,
Faller Packaging

Building Digital Supply Chains

Essential to digital supply chains are cloud-based platforms for data exchange and analysis. This is because, unlike the linear supply chain, it is a multidimensional network that extends far beyond site and country boundaries. This is made possible by the end-to-end networking of all people, machines, processes and goods involved via the Internet of Things, by automation and, above all, by the comprehensive collection and analysis of all data generated in the supply chain.

Collecting, sharing and analyzing information makes it possible to digitize individual work steps, implement new technologies and concepts, and thereby generate significant benefits for both pharmaceutical companies and their suppliers.

Relevant information includes:

  • Forecast data
  • Historical order data
  • Order change data
  • Batch records
  • Inventory quantities
  • Actual line requirements

The best way to exchange data between companies is via interfaces between the respective Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. These can be defined and created individually for each company and each system. In most cases, SAP is used as the ERP system. This speeds up the flow of information and at the same time makes it more comprehensive, secure and transparent.

What do you think about further networking of supply chains and the digitalization of these? Tell us in the comments. 

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