Drug maker goes social to end supply chain crisis

Pharmaceutical company uses social collaboration to get everyone communicating

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The expanded use of collaboration software, and the move to richer and more varied tools, helped the company achieve a service level of 98% for three years in a row. Moreover, Ratiopharm was able to manufacture its products three times faster, improving its ability to meet demand -- even surprise spikes in demand.

"I don't think we would have died, but we would have shrunk," said Martins, adding that he thinks jobs were saved because of the added collaboration among departments. "We were able to grow and save our position in the market, despite the market."

"If you have an operation where people can respond to changes very fast, it's an enormous weapon," he noted. "You have to be able to deal with surprises because the world has more surprises than nonsurprises."

While the pharmaceutical market continued to fluctuate, Ratiopharm and its supply chain stayed strong and flexible.

"I had the fastest supply chain in the industry," Martins said. "If work doesn't wait, work doesn't accumulate.... Everything goes faster and smoother. The company becomes more orderly. You go from a perpetual state of crisis to a state that is calm an orderly."

That more-agile supply chain and corporate stability helped to catch the eye of Teva Canada, a major supplier of generic pharmaceuticals in Canada and an arm of Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals. In 2010, Teva bought Ratiopharm and its supply chain, acquiring its expertise in collaboration as part of the package.

Prior to that acquisition, Teva had struggled during the period of upheaval in the pharmaceutical industry. Teva's service level was below 90% and its manufacturing time was around 80 days, according to Martins.

However, in January, after the acquisition, Martins and his team introduced Moxie's collaboration software into Teva's operations.

Now the company's service level is between 90% and 95%. Martins said he hopes it will be over 95% by the end of the summer. Moreover, Teva's manufacturing cycle time has improved from 80 days to 35-40 days, and the expectation is that it will drop to 25 days by the end of the summer.

"You establish environments in which employees can declare there's a problem," Martins said. "Collaboration allows us to see what's going on in-house.... If you're talking about how your company produces, you have a core that makes everything faster."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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