“Supply Chain Managers must have ‘Passion and Ownership’ for products they handle”

In Conversation With Ryan Viegas

By 2020, India is expected to capture 6 – 7 per cent of $760 billion global generics market. This figure points to a very important question that a lot of companies seem to be asking these days – Does the Indian pharma logistics industry have what it takes to win? We spoke to Ryan Viegas to wrap our head around this burning question. Ryan Viegas is a well-known figure in the pharma supply chain industry, has recently joined Delhivery as Advisor – Pharma and Healthcare. He was the head of Logistics – Asia Pacific at TEVA Pharmaceuticals and Vice President – Supply Chain & Procurement at Watson Pharma (Actavis) prior to the integration. He has had several accolades to his name including “Outstanding Contribution to the Pharma Segment” in 2018, “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2015, “Supply Chain Officer of the Year – Pharma Award” in 2012. Excerpts:

Being a seasoned pharma supply chain professional, how do you think India can improve the competitiveness of pharma products on the global level?

India has the largest number of US FDA approved sites outside of the USA. The quality of most pharmaceutical products produced in India for export to regulated countries is world-class. However, what needs more focus is the transportation of temperature sensitive products. Regulations need to be brought in place and enforced to ensure a better global position.

Which future trends are going to impact the pharma supply chain in the coming decade?

As an industry, we need to provide affordable and quality health care to all. While a lot of control has been on pricing, we need to do much more to monitor the quality of products that are temperature sensitive. Regulations in regulated markets on cold chain transportation have already been introduced, however, a lot needs to be done in India to monitor products that are temperature sensitive. Basic awareness and education of all links in the supply chain including the chemists and patients need to be done.

How businesses should optimize their supply chain? On the basis of agility or on the cost factor?

There are 2 major factors to optimize your supply chain – service and cost. Depending on the industry, environment and market, individual companies may take a call on the service level that they intend to provide to their customers. Speed and accuracy in logistics execution are of primary importance and in an uncertain market, this can be the winning factor for a company with a robust and agile supply chain. Real-time information on location, temperature and shock are being utilised to provide customers with regular updates on supply situations. In regard to costs, there are different costs for different service levels based on the criticality of the product, location and lead time. Whether maintaining inventories at different stages of the supply chain is more beneficial than making to order, is a matter for each company to consider.

In a country like India where human resource is available in abundance, how much sense does it make to introduce automation on a large scale in the supply chain?

Any decision on automation needs to be taken based on efficiency, accuracy and cost – and blindly following certain countries’ automation levels may not be the best option. For example, we see a shortage of truck drivers looming in our country and there could be certain quarters of professionals advocating self-driven vehicles as a solution. However, several advancements in self-driving vehicles are being carried out successfully in some countries. Is this the right solution for us in India? Given the infrastructure and density of traffic? This needs to be ascertained. Another example would be deliveries by drones. Are we open to this as a nation?

How has the art of managing the supply chain changed over the years since you stepped into the logistics domain? How do you recount your observation?

The term Supply Chain – simply defined as “fulfilment of demand” – evolved over several years to become an integrated function. To realise the value of supply chain, there needs to be an integrated platform where functions from supply planning, production scheduling, capacity planning, procurement of direct and indirect materials and services, warehousing and logistics are brought under a single umbrella. Several world class companies have progressed from the earlier manufacturing or sales driven organisations to a supply chain driven organisation where the focus is on fulfilment of customer demand. Data analytics has become a very powerful tool for supply chain professionals where business decisions are being taken with more credible data than before.

You have proven your supply chain management capabilities several times in your long successful career. What learning and lessons would you like to pass on to the new generation professionals as a mentor?

Manufacturers need to accept and take responsibility for the quality and integrity of their products throughout the supply chain until it reaches the patient. Supply chain management is a very complex and challenging function and besides upgrading knowledge and skill, a successful supply chain manager must have, ‘passion and ownership’ for the products being handled. We need to make the supply chain more attractive and a profession of choice for the new generation.

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