Why Forecasting is the Strongest Link in the API Supply Chain
By Mar Gimeno, Director - Head of TAPI Global S&OP and Demand Planning
For some, forecasting is seen as a science and for others, an art. For all of us in the API industry, supply chain forecasting is an essential management tool that enables us to reduce some of the uncertainty in the product life cycle and plan for successfully meeting customers’ needs. Every link in the supply chain relies on forecasting accuracy in order to operate effectively. Forecasting enables better supply planning to meet demands, and gives the business a clearer picture of production and output. It improves manufacturing efficiency by avoiding overproduction and minimizes the risk of running out of stock. Most importantly, it ensures customers receive the products they need when they need them, so they can meet marketplace demand. In essence, forecasting enables us to provide a first-rate customer experience.
For all of us involved in supply chain, it is important to examine ways to improve the forecasting process to be sure we are using the most current and complete information available. Many forecasting processes are a “push model” of providing a report template to all customers regardless of their needs. In our experience, when forecasting reports are more inclusive and include the review of historical data and market trends, they can better respond to changing customer demand and market conditions.
Production process is more efficient
Forecast accuracy is essential to operational efficiency, inventory control and staffing. Product demand can change very quickly and forecasting helps us order and manage our inventory of raw materials better, keep costs in line and provide a top-notch customer experience. For example, if a customer had requested a quantity of product and our forecast didn’t accurately anticipate the demand, we would not be able to purchase enough raw materials on time and plan the production of all stages of the API, leaving us unable to meet the customer’s time-sensitive needs.
Accurate forecasting ensures that operations has scheduled production of the right APIs, in the right quantity, at the right time, and that quality control has adequate time to ensure products meet regulatory and customer standards. It also means shipping can pack and ship orders for on-time delivery. Sometimes TAPI customers alert us to new market opportunities they are considering for their products. In those cases, we work with them to produce the quantity they will need so that when they are ready to go to market, they can react quickly. Reliable forecasting is vital to the success of our customers.
Forecasting improves the customer experience
Including customer input in the forecasting process translates into a better customer experience. They know exactly what materials will be delivered and when, enabling them to map out their manufacturing schedule in advance. If their production plans change and they require different materials, they can flag it early on so their order can be modified and costly errors minimized. We’ve learned that many customers do not know the correct final order quantity until later on in the process, so constant and open communication between the customer and their API account manager is critical to ensure that the correct decisions are made in a timely manner and that requirements are met. In addition to an account manager, we provide the customer with a personalized team of experts in customer experience, logistics, R&D, IP, and other areas to ensure their questions are answered thoroughly and that any issues are addressed professionally.
To keep pace in the ever-changing pharmaceutical industry, API supply chain forecasting must adapt. Regardless of whether you view forecasting as a science or an art, it is a necessity and its impact goes far beyond the bottom line. It deserves our attention for continuous improvement because it enables pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce an adequate supply of safe medicines on time, for patients who rely on them around the world.
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