When you speak of end-to-end visibility at Pfizer, a biopharma manufacturer active in more than 175 countries and with a product line of more than 24,000 SKUs, you're talking about the very definition of supply chain complexity.
All stakeholders, including more than 200 contract manufacturer partners, have to work in a highly orchestrated way, and in 2016 the company launched what it calls the Highly Orchestrated Supply Network, or HOSuN, a network tasked with strengthening supply chain operations among all customers, both internal and external.
HOSuN's Intercompany Operations (IO) group consists of colleagues from around the world who manage more than 17,000 air, 1,700-plus ocean and in excess of 34,000 surface shipments each year. The IO team plans, monitors and follows up on shipments so customer expectations can be fulfilled. What the IO team determined it needed was a combination of existing information and modern communication technology to enable all stakeholders to proactively access relevant data in an innovative, digital, and user-friendly way.
Enter the End-to-End In-Transit Visibility (E2E ITV) project, which supports the overall HOSuN program directly and connects stakeholders in “Orchestrate”, “Make”, “Delivery” and “Markets” on a single source of truth when it comes to status and whereabouts of in-transit shipment across the global supply network. ITV is gathering data from different sources and allows a personalized view depending on the function of the user. “Orchestrate” users (e.g., Brand Supply Leaders) can use the in-transit data to monitor inventory movements globally and evaluate supply risks.
It is also aligning “Make”, “Delivery” and “Market” users at all times in a breakthrough way — they can open an app called TrackiT or launch a web link on a smartphone and view the same information at any given time, wherever they are.
The official E2E ITV project team was formed in early 2016 to come up with truly innovative ideas, like the mobile app. To generate new ideas, a hackathon — an intense, immersive workshop that brings ideation and rapid prototyping to a whole new level — was organized with technology and business experts as well as future users of the tool at plants, logistics centers and markets.
At the end of the hackathon, the first design elements were established: to share information via a mobile app; highly flexible and personalized dashboards were needed to view data; design tools for internal and external performance measurement and workload anticipation; and create one central data repository.
Central Data Repository
In the course of 2016, the initial findings of the hackathon were translated into four main deliverables of the E2E ITV project. They are:
Pull — All data regarding in-transit shipments are stored in one central repository. Users can create as many dashboards as they would like in order to see certain a subset of data appropriate to their business needs.
Push — For shipments flagged as “critical/urgent”, the tool will proactively inform users on changes by sending notifications. The same functionality is also available for “non-critical” shipments where the user flags as a “favorite” to turn on this proactive information feed.
Business process — Align all stakeholders in the supply chain on the definition of “criticality” of a shipment and how all parties should execute these shipments with a “right first time” mind-set, eliminating rework and unplanned delays.
Performance management — By leveraging the data accumulated in the central repository over time, perform data trending analyses to identify improvement areas that would bring the most benefit to the overall supply chain.
With these four deliverables implemented, the tool provides visibility and changes how supply chain teams work. Each team has access to the same single source of truth about in-transit shipments, and they act in synchronization with other teams to execute these shipments without delays and rework.
Pfizer’s supply chain involves multiple parties and sites, starting with a market signaling demand for a certain product. Depending on the inventory on hand at market and shipments already in transit, market teams either confirm that they have sufficient stock or trigger an order. Once the product is ready for shipment in the supply location, an outbound delivery is created in SAP and corresponding booking is secured with the relevant freight forwarder. Depending on the physical lane of the shipment, the product might be routed via an Intercompany Operations warehouse for consolidation or for other market-specific requirements.
Considering the high number of internal plants, external contract manufacturers and around 130 market logistics locations, the complexity of managing this network becomes even more apparent.
Before the E2E ITV project, this process had been executed largely in silos without visibility where the product moves from one party to another. For example, intermediary parties did not know which and how many shipments were about to be released from the plants. Much of the end-to-end process was a black hole for all parties involved as soon as a shipment left the plant, and it required a lot of emails and phone calls to find out where a shipment was located and what was the latest expected arrival date.
Limited supply chain visibility created several problems in daily operations. From the point where the shipment is dispatched from the source until its arrival at the market, market users could not follow shipment on a near real-time basis for their market. Since estimated and actual end-to-end transit times were not systematically captured and analyzed, the expectations of market users varied and as a result relied on empirical experience.
On top of that, logistics centers could not proactively see what shipments were to be released from source locations on a daily basis. This created a lot of frustration for all stakeholders since they were not able to accurately forecast and provide information to an asking party, and had little to systematically trace the root cause of a problem. Investigations had to take place on an individual case level with a lot of resources engaged.
The pharmaceutical company's supply chain remains highly complex, of course, but with the E2E ITV project, the ability to “see” one's way around in real time is at one's fingertips.
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