It’s clear that COVID-19 response will affect capacity of all healthcare supply chains. At a recent Cold Chain Council webinar, Jeff Tucker of Tucker Company Worldwide noted that there’s never been a logistics effort in the world close to what we as an industry have to take on, “and incidentally, we’ve got to do it extremely cold.” With limited temperature-controlled capacity, life science manufacturers have to start planning for a capacity squeeze with their contract service providers now.
One key to overcoming these challenges according the Cold Chain Council is building strong relationships with business partners and maintaining them. “And if there was ever a year where that message was important, it’s certainly 2020 where seemingly everybody’s supply chains were turned upside down,” said Kevin Lynch, director of sales at Q Products and Services.
With over 30 years in the life sciences at Bayer, Luiz Barberini, operations manager, LATAM, has extensive experience in areas such as cold change distribution, logistics, manufacturing, planning, procurement, and more in locations like Brazil, which can be very challenging places for logistics.
Barberini highlighted that many people are feeling a range of emotions—afraid, depressed, and more—while most are working from home offices. He said, “It’s a huge time to change the way that we do our business, the way that we relate to our CMOs, the way that we keep our relationships moving. In such a challenging scenario, it’s important to have the right partnerships and look for innovation.” He offered the following tips on getting the most out of contract service relationships, in cold chain and beyond:
1. Find those who share the customer’s focus
The first commandment is that a supply chain partner must share the customer’s focus. Barberini pointed to the classic optical illusion where the person on the left sees four bars on the ground and the person opposite sees three, since they have different perspectives. “It’s a matter of how you see problems. Make sure that you’re all speaking the same language,” he said. A “focus on the customer” is about to fulfilling the customers’ needs for products or services, while “sharing the customer’s focus” is more holistic and driven by the customer’s mission. He said the former is much like a fast food chain delivering goods to a customer, while the latter is akin to a chef at a fine restaurant catering to a patron's experience and anticipating their needs.
2. Think digital but have the best sailors on board
Digitalizing operations and optimizing your network are essential. Simulation, augmented reality, and other tools offer great promise—with cyber security in place—because resilient supply chains of the future will need smart, connected, self-learning processes. “Industry 4.0 is both process and information, but it must rely on people to define processes, establish connections, and properly manage all the systems. So keep one eye on Industry, 4.0 to navigate on the sea. But when you talk about navigation, please consider the sailors that you you’re going to use. It’s very important to pay attention to the people,” he said.
3. Be transparent with your contact organizations
“At Bayer, we try to be very honest and transparent with our suppliers and be very collaborative with them,” he said. This includes clear discussions with your suppliers about capacity (both current and in the future), technology, on-time delivery, and whether competitors will be sharing production lines.
The second key relationship factor is one that Barberini likens to a paddleball game. “I live in Brazil, we have nice beaches and we love to play paddleball at the beach. Playing paddleball is about keeping the ball in air.” If you hit the ball well to your partner, odds are they will send a good hit back to you. He explained, “Do you play paddleball with your CMOs, partners, 3PLs, temp control device suppliers? Do you give them enough information about your process—good balls—so they can do their best and send you good balls back? It’s important to have this kind of approach. You have to do your best so they can do their best.”
Many companies may claim something is not their problem, it’s their supplier’s problem. “No. It’s on the hands of your supplier, but it’s your problem. If you don’t do things correctly, they can’t do their best,” he said.
4. Don’t forget the human connection
In Barberini’s last tip, he cited a quote from Simon Sinek: “100% of customers are people, 100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.” There may be stress or long hours, but your CMOs, 3PLs, 4PLs, and suppliers are people. “Give them all the respect that they deserve. It’s very, very important. We are all individuals, but we are all the same,” he said.