The following is Part One of a market education series addressing business and supply chain management challenges among emerging growth companies in pharmaceutical, life sciences and consumer product goods industry sectors in collaboration with Navigator Business Solutions.

 Supply Chain Matters has collaborated with Navigator Business Solutions to identify the top seven supply chain challenges among emerging growth companies in pharmaceutical, drug and consumer product goods industry. The full listing can be accessed in an infographic located on this specific Navigator Business Systems weblink. In this first in a series of three blog commentaries, we will amplify three such challenges, and specifically how a Cloud based ERP backbone system can help overcome such challenges.

For emerging high growth companies, supply chain business process and technology challenges take on different dimensions. That is because such organizations have customer needs and supporting processes that are constantly changing. Managers and work teams often have multiple responsibilities that span a broader swath of operations and management, leaving them to cobble together tools, often spreadsheets, to manage the broad variety of information needs related to customers, suppliers, orders, and fulfillment.

The first challenge is somewhat obvious, managing an SMB business utilizing spreadsheets amid today’s realities of a 7 by 24 clock speed of business developments will become a competitive disadvantage. When that business exists in a regulated industry, the challenge takes on even more dimensions for access to the most timely important information. There is little time for reconciliation of information among multiple spreadsheets, especially if a regulatory inquiry or product recall incident were to occur. Consideration of a backbone information system therefore needs to factor the support a singular view of cross-functional and cross business information and higher levels of either business or end-to-end supply or product value-chain chain visibility. Decision-making capabilities need to be grounded in the most up-to-date, real-time business information and enhanced with today’s more advanced business intelligence and data-driven decision-making capabilities.

SMB businesses are hardly static and require flexibility in business processes and supporting information systems to support ever-changing business growth needs. Faster cycles of product innovation, entry into new markets or regulatory segments are constants, as is the expansion and scope of information required to manage in those environments. At the same time, overall budgets are constrained, thus investments in software and technology need to be able to support broader overall business needs that can scale to future requirements  in employee productivity and total cost-of-ownership. SMB teams should not forget that system friendliness and ease of use are keys to quicker training, implementation, and time-to-value.

At times, there may be specific business process challenges that require immediate attention in overcoming information constraints related to a specific process area such as supply chain or production planning and execution, but there are surely other functional challenges that often occur as the business grows. The good news is that enterprise technology providers have been maturing their ERP backbone systems specifically for SMB business needs. This is also an area where a Cloud based ERP platform can provide meaningful benefits since investments in added IT infrastructure and security needs are managed by the Cloud technology provider. The Cloud approach provides the flexibility for a pay-as-you-grow applications and IT platform model that overcomes the needs for added internal IT support resources.

A new reality is that pharmaceutical, branded drug and consumer goods markets have broadened on a global basis to access growing emerging markets. Therefore, the supply chain now spans multiple production and supply chain services partners on a global scale. That implies continuous product demand and supply risk mitigation capabilities must be available to SMB as well as larger businesses. Native multi-language and multi-currency needs, local technical support become essential as is seamless integration to external systems. Specific challenges relate to different product expiration standards, lot traceability and quality control practices. Global scale implies broader integration to B2B EDI and other transactional messaging and supply chain business network Cloud-based platforms. Again, a suite-based ERP platform offered by a provider with global scale and services helps to address such needs.

In our next blog commentary in this series, we will explore how the unique needs of integrated business planning are coupled with a vigilant prioritization process.

Bob Ferrari

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