How supply chain visibility helped AbbVie stay agile for customers

Pharmaceutical supply chains have felt immense pressure this year. While they have always had the important job of shipping life-changing medications, supply chain disruptions have added some challenges to this already complex task. 

Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company AbbVie has incorporated real-time transportation visibility into their supply chain strategy to improve agility and deliver an improved customer experience. 

Greg Pritchard, Head of Global Logistics & JAPAC Distribution at AbbVie, joined Vernon O’Donnell, Chief Product and Services Officer at project44 at CSCMP Edge 2020 to discuss their visibility journey and how real-time shipment data is impacting their pharma supply chain. 

AbbVie’s Driver for Real-Time Transportation Visibility 

Like many global supply chains of today, AbbVie sought real-time visibility to gain more insight into and control over their shipments. 

“We were really interested in where our products were in transit and what was going on with our shipments, particularly around responding to events, like weather events,” said Pritchard. “We ship a lot of high-value shipments and pharmaceutical products that are temperature controlled, so having that visibility was really important.” 

By understanding where their shipments are, they can be proactive and pivot plans as needed. While this alone is important for any shipper, AbbVie soon discovered how the visibility data could help them enhance their customer experience. 

Pritchard explained, “As we got into it, we realized we could support the customer experience as well by having our customer services teams use visibility to answer queries from customers.” 

Armed with reliable visibility data in real-time, AbbVie is able to handle the age-old question: Where is my shipment? 

And as many have learned this year, the ability to answer this question is becoming increasingly important to customers. 

Building and Maintaining Credibility with Customers 

With a world on edge due to a global pandemic, the healthcare industry is understandably anxious about when their medical equipment and medications will arrive. 

“The immediate real-time understanding of the position of your shipments, and then being able to respond, creates a level of added assurance to your customers. It enhances that service experience as well because you can have an engagement, you can respond quickly to queries, or you can make adjustments,” said Pritchard. 

Throughout this year, AbbVie has seen the need to provide customers with real-time shipment information increase. 

Pritchard explained, “If we have any supply disruptions, or if we have any express or urgent shipping requirements, or we maybe have a shipment we need to track because it’s really important, we can put our white gloves across it. We can create a hyper-care process internally and use that visibility platform.” 

With real-time shipment information, AbbVie is building more confidence among their customers that the shipments will arrive when needed. 

“I think it’s going to continue to be important, even more so going forward, that it continues to build credibility with your customers that you’re managing things and you’re on top of things,” said Pritchard. 

Deciding on a Visibility Approach 

While they have seen how visibility can help engagements with customers, it’s not always easy to find the right visibility approach. 

“Initially we engaged a third-party partner in the very early days, and they were venturing into this area as well. We had some challenges around building connections and standing up our network. We also had an extensive group of carriers. Building the connections internally between our systems was a bit of a challenge,” said Pritchard. “At some point we decided to develop our own internal visibility solution. We had some challenges around reliability of our system, getting the information in a timely manner.” 

Taking on visibility in house is a heavy lift, especially when working with many carriers. As AbbVie encountered challenges with unreliable or outdated information, the confidence level internally was low. Without this confidence from internal teams, it was hard to gain adoption. 

AbbVie started to look for a real-time visibility provider that was focused on investing in the technology. 

Pritchard said, “It’s one of those classic examples of partnering up with the right experts to really drive the capabilities.” 

Connecting to Carriers and Driving Performance Using Data 

Part of the reason why gaining visibility is challenging is the need to connect to a shipper’s entire carrier network. 

Discussing how AbbVie got started with visibility, Pritchard said, “Understanding all the data sources and getting the connections right was really key.” 

These carrier connections are essential for shippers to make informed and proactive decisions but having this data can also improve communication with their carriers. 

“You have information that’s right in front of you, so in terms of how you engage with transport companies, it will be much more efficient and streamlined in terms of communications around particular disruptions or events,” said Pritchard. 

Shippers can use analytics based on visibility data in conversations with carriers to dig into areas of improvement. Moreover, quality data can help shippers understand their performance and areas where they might be able to increase efficiency for customers. 

Pritchard explained, “We feed the p44 data into our data lake and it drives the generation of a lot of our performance metrics. Our delivery performance metrics are all calculated off the information that we get from p44.” 

With high-fidelity data and actionable insights, shippers can continuously drive improvement within and beyond their four walls. Additionally, real-time transportation visibility can help supply chains pivot plans as needed and gain more confidence and credibility with customers. 

Hear the Full Conversation with Greg Pritchard and Vernon O’Donnell

Watch the full conversation with Greg Pritchard, Head of Global Logistics & JAPAC Distribution of AbbVie. 

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