Delivering Personalized Therapies with Disruption-Proof Supply Chains

December 17, 2020
2 Minute Read

When a multinational pharmaceutical company developed an immunocellular therapy that uses a patient’s own T cells to fight leukemia, it marked a lifesaving breakthrough. But the journey from laboratory to market and to patients had only just begun. And it required optimizing the end-to-end global business supply chain.

They aren’t just the goods assembled in factories, then stacked on container ships and delivered in cargo trucks. We’re a part of them too. From the device you’re reading this on to the organ donor box checked on your license and the drugs making their way to your local pharmacy, supply chains can be a matter of life and death. At least, that’s how Mark Wekesser, an RGP consultant, sees them.

“Every day we come to the office, we realize we have issues to face and problems to solve,” says Mark. “But ultimately, we’re helping to treat children’s leukemia, and that’s a whole different motivation.”

Powering a Successful Launch

Before enlisting RGP, our client’s journey to market had fallen over a year behind schedule and was $12 million over budget. Mark, along with his team of RGP project managers and enterprise software superusers, came on board to help guide the successful commercial launch of the therapy by developing, implementing and optimizing the complete end-to-end global business supply chain.

“Most patients have been through chemo, radiation—have relapsed twice—and don’t have any other options,” says Mark. “Making sure the patient gets this therapy on time—a therapy that is completely individualized for them—literally comes down to days and hours.”

Our work would eventually define and build the patient scheduling process, implementing enhancements across scheduling hub and processing-site operations to increase manufacturing capacity and reduce patient wait time by an average of 16 days. And that was only the beginning.

Landing on the ‘Right Runway’

“It started out as a four-month opportunity,” says Mark. “Before they engaged with us, they had completed the fundamental design of the systems and processes needed to distribute the therapy but had trouble finishing that final 25%.”

In order to go to a commercial offering, the organization needed a system that could integrate with Salesforce while still maintaining the data privacy protection required by HIPAA.

“We came in to land it on the right runway,” says Mark, whose team identified the best software, then got to work integrating it between SAP and Salesforce, iterating and improving along the way. This approach would eventually allow the platform to efficiently support the already complex processes in place, reducing the burden on those managing them and empowering end-users.

We then led the design and development of an automated data visualization tools dashboard, creating and deploying reports as needed. The dashboard automated tracking and reporting of established KPIs such as success rates, throughput and cycle time. By also integrating data with manufacturing and finance, we enabled real-time analysis and decision-making while forecasting global demand. And we never stopped improving.

Clearing Obstacles for On-time Arrivals

To reduce bottlenecks and increase capacity to meet growing demand, our team led a cross-functional process and value stream mapping project. Integrating with over 50 stakeholders from teams across the complete end-to-end value stream, we established current state process benchmarks then applied Lean manufacturing concepts to continuously improve standards for the existing clinical facility.

“This work significantly reduced cycle time for each therapy,” says Mark, whose team decreased the window from when the therapy begins to when it’s infused by 35%.

Our work drove optimization, with a constant focus on improvement and reengineering systems in tandem with our client.

“The ability to work on projects like this, where the implications are much larger than just dollars and cents, gives me a ton of pride. While my day-to-day doesn’t include much, if any, interaction with patients, I know the work we’re doing is saving lives.”

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