Digital Transformation & Supply Chain Management Trends

Experts at PCI Pharma Services discuss trends and challenges associated with digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry.

This Q&A was first published in Contract Pharma in October 2023

Wayne Hull, Chief Digital & Technology Officer at PCI Pharma Services, and Kristi Lecher, PCI’s Senior Director of Global Digital Supply Chain, discuss trends and challenges associated with digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry, specifically relating to the supply chain management platform, pci | bridge™.

Contract Pharma: How is digital transformation reshaping the pharmaceutical industry?

Wayne Hull: Contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) are an integral part of the pharmaceutical industry today to achieve speed and quality when delivering therapies to patients. Hence, having the capability as a CDMO to interact seamlessly with your clinical and commercial customers is more critical than ever. At the core of this capability are digital processes, platforms, and data, and this is what PCI Pharma services have built.

CP: What are the key challenges that pharmaceutical companies face in adopting digital transformation strategies? Are there any drawbacks?

Wayne: CDMOs traditionally are digital laggards rather than leaders. Hence, transformational change is not an institutional capability. What is different about PCI Pharma Services is that we have adopted world class corporate systems, built an innovative customer digital platform, and are working tirelessly on aligning our business processes and information. These actions all support our goal to make our customers’ engagement with PCI most the efficient across the industry.

Kristi Lecher: One of the key challenges we observe in the journey of digital transformation is that it is such a broad term. As a result, finding the right approach for their respective organizational structures and data ecosystem can seem daunting. Taking a pragmatic approach to what’s achievable and required vs idealistic and blue sky will help.

It’s important to do a few things early in the process: 1. Have a clear strategy for the approach. 2. Understand what roles and organizational structures may need to change. 3. Have experienced resources guiding the right functions, and 4. Have the requisite funding to move forward with the strategy.

Go into this knowing you’re likely going to find some quick, low hanging fruit in processes to optimize. But be aware that changing the behaviors of resources to adopt digital tools and setting standards for the data requirements to support the efforts will likely follow a longer curve and will require strong change management. While there are considerations, I don’t believe there are drawbacks to digital transformation, all progress toward a goal of modernization and efficiency is good progress.

CP: What is PCI’s strategy for addressing the challenges associated with supply chain management?

Kristi: PCI identified a trend in our client conversations several years ago—requests for data like inventory and production reports and the desire for integrations were on the rise. At that time, a user centered, system driven solution that provided those resources in real time was missing. Out of this need and others, pci | bridge™ was born. PCI approached several strategic client partners, to ideate a solution that would provide them visibility, 24/7 access, and efficient collaboration with their PCI counterparts across the globe.

CP: What is unique about pci I bridge™ that sets it apart from other supply chain management solutions?

Kristi: pci | bridge™ is a bespoke digital platform that provides client access to inventory, production, and distribution data in an easily consumable format. Additionally, PCI has added document sharing capabilities, integrations with other digital tools, and the ability to support virtual audits using the platform. pci | bridge™ has been live for more than 3 years and is always evolving. It’s developed using agile methodologies and supported by a dedicated product team including technical and customer success resources. It is updated regularly with new capabilities that are a direct result of client requests, project manager feedback and other industry trends.

CP: How does pci | bridge™ help pharmaceutical companies ensure data security and privacy while embracing digital technologies in their supply chain and manufacturing processes?

Kristi: Ensuring data security and privacy are a top priority for PCI. Our product team collaborates regularly with our cyber security and legal team to ensure that pci | bridge™ is developed in line with our policies and procedures as well as industry standards and regulations. The platform is architected in a manner that segregates data by client, product and protocol and is user permissions specific.

CP: What are the regulatory and compliance considerations for implementing digital solutions in the pharmaceutical supply chain?

Kristi: PCI operates in a highly regulated environment, all development of pci | bridge™ and implementation of new digital solutions is evaluated and validated as required per our SOPs and applicable regulations. The most critical piece of maintaining compliance is to understand user requirements and what issue or process the new tools or capabilities are solving for. Clear definition and transparent communication of these details between teams is critical. These are always reviewed in partnership with our regulatory and quality team before implementation.

Wayne: Quality and regulation are core values of PCI. We follow similar processes and industry standards with all digital and cyber security.

CP: What are the potential cost savings and revenue opportunities associated with a well-executed pharmaceutical digital transformation and supply chain optimization strategy?

Wayne: Digital transformation supports pristine customer service, and pristine customer service drives revenue. Blending the physical and digital worlds, allows for greater efficiencies which optimizes operating costs.

CP: How can pharmaceutical companies collaborate with technology partners and startups to accelerate their digital transformation efforts in supply chain management?

Kristi: Start by naming the problems or opportunities your organization needs to solve for. Achieving this list is easier than you’d think. Just ask your team, they’ll tell you the pain points in their process. Find the right partner to solve for the resulting list and identify internal champions of change for the first processes or systems your organization is looking to improve. Reach out to partners in your existing supply network, especially those who work with others in the industry. These organizations are in a unique position to understand the needs and potentially work toward solutions. 

As a CDMO with global clients, PCI often collaborates with and shares our digital transformation strategy and the tangible progress on those goals with clients. These collaborative discussions have unlocked shared value for PCI and our strategic client partners and propelled progress.

CP: How does supply chain resilience and risk management factor into pharmaceutical digital transformation strategies, especially in the context of global disruptions and supply chain vulnerabilities?

Kristi: In the industry’s current climate, it is not a question of if risks and disruptions will occur, it’s a matter of when. Managing risk and achieving resilience is all about transparency and visibility to the data that allows an organization to make the right decisions quickly to resolve.  Real time or predictive escalation can help to lessen response cycle times. Achieving this kind of proactivity can be difficult when the data required lives in disparate systems. 

A tool like pci | bridge™ helps to elevate real time progress on order management, inventory, and distribution. Integrations with other digital tools, courier networks, and PCI’s ERP brings a consolidated and centralized view of a client’s portfolio and open orders. This allows users to see—or be fed notifications—about those processes in real time allowing for quick action and response. 

CP: What are the future trends and innovations expected in pharmaceutical supply chain management because of ongoing digital transformation efforts?

Kristi: The most common industry projections in the pharma supply chain space center around new and more effective ways to leverage data. Moving systems to cloud solutions, developing supply chain platforms like pci | bridge™ and control towers, continued focus on workflow automation, and establishing a link between digital transformation and company ESG initiatives are a few that come to top of mind.

We provide a complete range of pharma supply chain management services, and we are committed to supporting clients at every stage of the clinical cycle, delivering best-in-class services efficiently and effectively.

Find out more about PCI | bridge here

Our dedicated team of specialists will be happy to discuss any of your supply chain management service needs. Contact us on +1 779-208-1819 (US) or +44 1495 711 222 (UK/EU) or email