AstraZeneca had carried out a fair amount of supply-chain analytics in past years, says Devpura. But such efforts had been conducted in discrete areas. The new idea was to bring the whole team together, as part of a centralized analytics function. "It was a holistic approach, instead of [deploying] experts in different silos," he says.
The initiative began in 2013, and has grown rapidly since then. Analysts have been able to move from descriptive calculations to those with a predictive or even prescriptive nature. “We’re looking at how we can optimize the pieces,” with an eye toward improving overall network design, Devpura says.
Analytics now is part of AstraZeneca’s global supply-chain strategy, supporting centralized planning. As a result, Devpura says, the discipline has a much more global impact on operations.
To some extent, he says, a new level of talent was needed to carry out the effort. The company needed to ensure that its analysts had a firm grasp of the overall business, and weren’t just “churning numbers.” In addition, it was important to bring in certain external talent, consisting of individuals who were intimately familiar with the analytics function. Devpura was among those who came from outside the company, and was tapped to lead the initiative.
From the start, it was essential that top leadership buy into the concept. “If that level of commitment is not there,” Devpura says, “then the whole journey becomes extremely hard.” In addition, AstraZeneca needed to make sure that managers possessed the right skill sets, and that a strong internal training program was in place. The result was, for the first time, a unified means of measuring supply-chain performance, utilizing a clear set of metrics.
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