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Building Partnerships for a Resilient, Transparent Healthcare Supply Chain Network Between North America, Ireland and Beyond

An Enterprise Ireland webinar hosted leaders from the healthcare industry discussing how lessons learned during the pandemic shaped their supply chain strategies with a focus on assuring resilience.

Enterprise Ireland recently presented a two-part/two-panel webinar discussion titled Market Insights: Building a Resilient Supply Chain and Distribution Network in North America. The webinar brought together thought leaders from across North America’s Lifesciences sector to share their knowledge and expertise on how to keep the industry moving forward while navigating a continuously shifting, global supply chain landscape.

The first topic, Improving Supply Chain Resilience Between North America and Ireland, was moderated by Jennie Lynch, Senior Vice President of Life Sciences, Enterprise Ireland, located in Boston, Massachusetts. Panelists discussed pandemic-exposed vulnerabilities in both supply-chain infrastructure and its performance, as well as future threats to the value chain.

Panelists for this first topic featured:

    Curtis Lancaster, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Westchester Medical Health Network

    David Walsh, Director of Supply Chain Administration, Boston Children’s Hospital

    Randi Elkind, Director, Global API Procurement, Business Analytics, Apotex

    Charles Miceli, Vice President Network Chief, Supply Chain Officer, University of Vermont Health

The second discussion, Partnering for Success: Distribution and International Supply, was moderated by Sam Tarantino, Head of BioScript Logstics. Within this topic, panelists discussed North American distribution channels with a focus on the disruption caused by the pandemic, and ways in which the industry has responded. Panelists also discussed the attributes of a successful distribution partnership, and provided insights to international suppliers seeking to enter the market.

Panelists for the second topic featured:

    Mike Canzoneri, President & CEO Canadian Hospital Specialties

    Christine Donaldson, VP Pharmacy Services HealthPRO

    Jesse Ledger, CEO, Miravo Healthcare

Altogether, this insightful 120-minute webinar covered many topics focused on building a more resilient healthcare supply chain and distribution network. Panelist points touched on how supply chains need to be de-centralized and shorted to prevent future disruptions and how advanced data analytics and blockchain-type technologies can promote transparency and accountability in supply chains.

“We went through the pandemic just like everybody else, and in my 30 years of supply chain experience, this was probably the worst situation I’ve encountered,” said Walsh. “Even in the face of past emergencies like hurricanes and floods, the pandemic showed us how we need to work together as a global team.”

Supply chain health has always been an important issue in healthcare, often with disruptions happening just when supplies are needed most. The supply chain’s critical importance was exposed at the onset of the pandemic with the slowing of supply chains and finished goods from APAC and the resulting impact on many businesses in North America. Earlier this year, the importance of supply chain resilience was elevated by the White House as an issue of national security, and an executive order on resilient supply chains was issued. 

“The supply chain challenges that we have always had were further exacerbated by the pandemic and heightened things like the geographic reality of our supply base, and the need to create heat maps and understanding where the hard-hit areas on the globe are,” said Elkind. “By overlaying that info with the location of our suppliers helped us focus our attention on those suppliers that were in those hot zones. We needed to very quickly understand how to react to the information to be responsive to the pandemic situation.”

The panels discussed how many aspects of the procurement had previously been handled by distributors and other partners, which often resulted in limited supply visibility regarding what was shipping, where it was, where it was manufactured.

“In many cases, we had put ourselves in a bad position where we had no visibility into what was coming, where it was, where it was manufactured,” said Lancaster. “Since then, we’ve focused deeply on building a resiliency program. I’ve hired a resiliency manager to focus on this and build up that program and build the relationships. We’re trying to partner in different ways to have more control and to be able to have that transparency.”

The panels stressed that understanding their suppliers’ supply chain was not something that they put a lot of focus on in the past, but moving forward, it’s critical to know who the suppliers’ suppliers are and to have work-around relationships in place. Additionally, companies are now looking to move away from having a single, large supplier and instead are building relationships with multiple, smaller suppliers (often from a mix of different countries) that they can pivot with in the event of supply chain disruption. 

“When we went over to Enterprise Ireland, we were able to visit a couple of different companies, one of them was Fleming Medical in Limerick, and then we ended up continuing further west to Galway to other manufacturing sites,” said Lancaster. “These visits opened our eyes to the capabilities that are sitting in Ireland for us to be able to partner and build a relationship so we have somebody we can look to for help.” 

Lynch added that Ireland is very strong from a manufacturing perspective regarding respirators, ventilators, and nebulizers, and Irish companies worked diligently to export a lot of supplies into the US and Canadian markets when there was a dire need for ventilators.

“Healthcare organizations, in general, need to work more directly with the manufacturers. They want to know where the factories are, they want to know what their plans are, and this is a good development,” said Walsh. “Our jobs are changing. It’s not just looking at a piece of paper and ordering something. We have to become more of a supply chain expert understanding the global perspective from start to finish.”

“We rely heavily on CMOs around the world to manufacture our products, whether it’s the active ingredients that go into them, or the finished products themselves,” said Ledger. “So really looking at dual sourcing where it’s financially possible and really beefing up the investment that we’ve made into our supply chain is critical.”

Across the board, supply chain professionals are seeing the intersection of many different types of innovations and technologies. New methodologies and technologies are being developed to collect and analyze data that were previously managed through emails and phone calls. From blockchain tools to AI to robotics, new digital and connected data points will unify global supply chains.

“When disasters hit, I think blockchain and artificial intelligence will be able to give an early alert of issues and then help us map the transportation disruption around the world,” added Lancaster. “During the pandemic, we needed to redirect the transportation of a shipment to a different part of the world, so we unfolded a map and we’re drawing lines, trying to figure it out in a very old school way. As an industry, we can do much better.”

To view the 120-minute webinar in its entirety, please click here.

Note: Participant quotes have been paraphrased and edited for brevity.

To learn more about Irish LifeSciences innovators contact Jennie Lynch


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Building Partnerships for a Resilient, Transparent Healthcare Supply Chain Network Between North America, Ireland and Beyond