When Avoiding Blindness Requires Seeing the Supply Chain Clearly

Posted on 
December 4, 2019
Laura Foti
CMO, Specright

Thanksgiving is always a great time to catch up with family and share stories.

Growing up, I learned a great deal from my dad and the stories he shared working in the pharmaceutical field. One of the most memorable stories came up during my holiday visit home.

Dad mentioned his neighbor recently reached out through social media looking for a drug that one of their youngest family members needed. The drug, used to treat glaucoma and strabismus (crossed eyes), was back ordered at least three months.

The family was in a frantic search to find a supply.

Dad understood their challenge. After all, he had dealt with this exact situation more than a decade ago: without this drug, patients faced the possibility of going blind or needing invasive surgical intervention. Dad was amazed that, a decade later, there seemed to be little progress in tracking raw materials in the supply chain.

He asked me how Specright might have helped — then and now.

Sal Foti dealt with supply chain challenges in pharmaceuticals.

About 11 years ago, Sal Foti was the senior director of global public relations for a major pharmaceutical company when he received a call from the company’s medical director informing him of the drug shortage.

Immediately, a task force of senior company officials was formed to identify the issues surrounding the shortage and develop a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of patients and answer questions from government officials and the media. The biggest challenge came from the discovery that the raw materials needed to create the drug formulation were unavailable at the time, so little could be done to begin production of a new batch of the drug.

According to dad, supply chain professionals from across the world were contacted to help identify and source the needed drug across a global network of wholesalers, pharmacies, individual doctors’ offices and pharmaceutical warehouses.

Warehouse of Raw Materials
Finding raw materials can be difficult when inventory is not tied to the specification level.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a slow and arduous process involving the examination of a myriad of spreadsheets and inventory reports that took days and weeks to compile. Each day that passed meant more and more patients were at risk.

Finally, a substantial supply of the drug was found but it had exceeded its expiration dates. Working with the US Food & Drug Administration, the company was able to demonstrate that its efficacy was still well within the guidelines established by the FDA. So, after a great deal of effort, a verifiable list of where and how the drug could be obtained was developed.

As the years passed, Dad said he often wondered if the delays in identifying the much needed drug could have been reduced or eliminated. He also worried whether the delays had caused patients to suffer. I explained to him that Specright provides supply chain professionals with visibility into materials across their supply chain.

His story is also a familiar one, as we’ve moved many customers from spreadsheets to our cloud-based platform. By digitizing and mapping specifications, we’ve enabled companies to keep track of all critical product and packaging data in one place.

In Specright, dad’s supply chain colleagues would have been able to search and click into the raw material specification and immediately see inventory levels, suppliers, and supplier contact information. The time to locate and contact suppliers would have been almost instantaneous.

I explained to dad that we do this through our approach to managing product and packaging data - what we call Specification Data Management™. Only by starting at the DNA-level of products can companies truly manage their supply chains.

For a pharmaceutical company, this would include data for raw materials, ingredients, formulas, packaging and critical information such as expiration dates, lot codes, and Material Safety Data Sheets associated with them. These specifications would then be mapped to critical components of the company’s supply chain, such as suppliers, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities. By tying this information together, the company would have a holistic view of its supply chain.

As a result, the company would have been able to quickly and efficiently establish each drug’s production date, expiration date, and any other data points necessary to solve such a problem - not in the days and weeks it had taken, but within minutes. Instead of searching through spreadsheets, they would have pulled a live report.

My dad and I are hopeful that his next door neighbor will get the medicine he needs.

At Specright, we’ll continue to work to create a world where connected supply chains become the norm and finding excess supply is only a click away.


Laura Foti

Laura leads marketing and investor relations at Specright. Prior to Specright, she led advertising and analytics at GE Digital, GE’s Industrial Internet software business. Before that, she was a consultant at Deloitte Digital working in enterprise digital transformation, where she helped clients design and deploy eCommerce experiences, develop revenue-driving mobile apps, and reimagine their global digital marketing strategy. Laura was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for marketing and advertising and Brand Innovators 40 Under 40 and 100 Women to Watch lists. She graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She resides in Newport Beach, CA.

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