A New Normal?

Paul Lavery, Director, Solutions Enablement – Supply Chain, Axway

We started this year with the lingering pressure and anxiety of “The Great Recession of 2008” still weighing heavily over our plans and budgets. The projections for recovery were bad, and the level of uncertainty regarding the potential economic climate was at an all time high. One commonly held belief was that we were in a period of a “new normal.” Not that there was a common definition of what the “new normal” was, but rather that what many of us believed to be normal had changed.

Fair enough, in terms of the consumer (savings, credit, housing, etc.), but from a supply chain operations perspective, much of the work remains the same. If anything, the pressure and intensity of the recession of ’08 put greater value on many industry initiatives and technologies that had already been in place or were in the process of being implemented. The event, if there was one, was the realization that not focusing on an implementation strategy to centralize and manage supply chain file exchange left many companies scrambling to identify the real impact of the downturn in business. This, in my opinion, cut across all three of the major supply chain industries (retail, manufacturing, and logistics).

I wrote several blog posts related to more specific examples, including:

Common among all of them is the (re)prioritization of the role of IT infrastructure and how it will now play in company planning related to supply chain. What was leading edge is now more of a norm. I do not mean to suggest that all companies are set and have established systems and processes in place. On the contrary, most still have a lot of work to do. I’m saying that we have moved from educating to planning. It’s not about how it works and what it is. It’s about when it will be in place or who will we select to get this done.

A new normal for SC professionals’ operating plans? Not so much.

A new norm for how value proof points obtain larger budgets for the IT infrastructures that support the end-to-end supply chain data flow? Yes.

Integration Projects and B2B Transaction Flows

Paul Lavery, Director, Solutions Enablement – Supply Chain Axway

“How do you not have to go through a large restructuring or large integration project with your B2B traffic and your B2B transaction flow? Part of the challenge there is making sure that you’re getting the most of what you’ve already invested in, whether it be a communications gateway or it’s a translation software that you have on-premise, while at the same time looking at the total cost of ownership when you combine your maintenance fees alongside with value-added networks service charges.”

Beyond the Scope

by Ruby Raley, Director, Healthcare Solutions, Axway

You may have been following some of the recent articles on pharmaceutical distribution, and, in particular, the conversation on anti-counterfeiting that appeared in USA Today. Another article, this one in The Wall Street Journal, appeared around the same time and took a very different point of view: that counterfeits are not a serious problem.

So, if you’re an executive, a leader, or someone who cares about the safety of our pharmaceutical distribution supply chain, what are you supposed to glean from all these messages from respected voices?

Consider the recent injury of a diabetic man, an injury that had nothing to do with counterfeit pharmaceuticals yet illustrates why anti-counterfeiting measures can yield effects that go beyond the scope of pharmaceuticals.

A shipment of diabetes management devices was stolen from a major manufacturer’s truck, and the lot the devices belonged to didn’t appear in the marketplace at all for a year.

Then, all of a sudden, it did. A patient purchased one of the devices, the device was no longer effective, the test did not work correctly, and the patient’s blood sugar went sky high.

This episode succinctly illustrates why we should be concerned about anti-counterfeit measures, regardless of contrarian pragmatists with narrowly focused points of view. Whether the root cause is the bad guys making fake product and putting it in the supply chain, or the bad guys stealing product and mishandling the product and putting it back in the supply chain, or non-pedigreed product coming over the border and into our pharmacies, there is a problem.

And fortunately, we actually know how to solve that problem.

Tighter lot control.

The lots are so large now that when there’s a recall, it can clear the shelves, as you’ve probably seen at your local pharmacy with some of the recent recalls from trusted manufacturers.

We need smaller lots, and we need to assign a serialized number to the product below the overall lot level so that we can track batches and sub-shipments. With the right software, tracking those batches and sub-shipments is not difficult, yet the savings compared to entire lot recalls is profound.

And with track and trace legislation enforcement just five years away, product manufacturers should seriously consider labeling at the case level or at the shipment level, using tamper-evident markings, and investing in the right solutions so that they can determine that all products have shipped safely from a secure manufacturing site to a secure distributor, or from a secure distributor to a secure location at a local pharmacy.

After all, there’s a lot more than profit margins and reputations at stake. And the sooner everyone—journalists, enterprises, and industry leaders alike—recognize that even one injury injures us all, the sooner profit margins, reputations, and a lot more can be secured.

The Service Level Agreement/Multi-Enterprise Scenario

Paul Lavery, Director – Solutions Enablement, Supply Chain, Axway

“What we’re talking about is transaction intelligence, really being able to take the information that’s flowing within the transaction sets from the various parties throughout the supply chain that are responsible, and making correlations and providing visibility. That visibility is actually essential to all the participants so that they meet the service level agreements that they have with their trading partners.”

EPCIS Software Selection Criteria

Cedric Monier, Director, Integration Corporate Program — Product & Solution Marketing, Axway

“When you’re building…an EPCIS event repository, you want to be able to collect information from, first, the master data to initialize your system with all the master data information. Then you need to collect events from your product line, from your warehouse system, from your partners, and to do so you’re going to encounter a lot of different formats, a lot of different protocols, coming from various applications. Vendors that provide an integration suite and that provide very powerful abilities to integrate these different flows into the event repository also differentiate in the market.”

One Forward, One Back: Do You Know Where That’s Been?

Paul Lavery, Director – Solutions Enablement, Supply Chain, Axway

“After 9/11, there was a lot of government action to try to secure different facets of our country, and particularly our economy and industries. I think a lot of the initial regulations that came out were sort of ad hoc in nature, and didn’t necessary include the participation of some of the industry standards groups. So what we’ve noticed lately–I would say over the last three years–is that there’s been a bigger push or an alliance that’s forming between the federal agencies like the FTC or the FCC or even the energy regulation federal agency in conjunction with their counterparts in the industry association and industry standards groups. That’s evolving to a set of formats and standards that any of the companies that are in those industries have to adhere to. So what you’re not necessarily seeing are heavy mandates coming from the government, but what you’re starting to see is more voluntary standards that are being required by some of the biggest players in those industries.”

Community Hubs: Sign On, Sign Off, and Track

Paul Lavery, Director – Solutions Enablement, Supply Chain, Axway