There is tremendous opportunity to elevate customer experiences and enhance internal operations through digital transformation. At PCI Pharma Services, we embarked on a digital transformation two years ago and most recently, we launched our pci | bridge platform, which is helping customers manage their clinical and commercial programs more efficiently by providing real-time data access to comprehensive supply chain information, combined with digitalized workflows, experienced project management capabilities, and customizable reports.
A Digital Transformation Journey
PCI began its digitalization journey approximately two years ago with the goal of improving our processes and increasing both efficiency and transparency, effectively transforming our organization from a successful packaging and labeling company to an integrated pharmaceutical supply chain company.
We began with the implementation of foundational technologies for both front and back-office operations and have become a much more collaborative organization through the use of Microsoft Teams. All of our managers and their employees are capable of working remotely, which has been crucial during this challenging year.
Data analysis and modeling tools are enabling us to drive new insights that inform decision-making processes throughout the company, from procurement to production scheduling and many other supply chain/value chain decisions, including pricing. Digitalization of our core business processes and integration of these new digital tools without back-office and sales force systems is enabling our employees to focus more on value-added activities for our customers. One example is the implementation of an electronic quality management system — and more are on the way. We have a roadmap covering a range of business processes to be digitalized, including invoicing, sales order processing, and material requisitioning.
The PCI approach is focused on looking toward the future and seeing the potential that digitization and technology hold for the pharma supply chain. We have found that replacing manual tasks with data-led digital decision-making technologies can provide a 10–20% gain in efficiency, while data-driven supply chain management for improved inventory control can afford 2–8% cost savings.
Creating a Cohesive Digital Environment
For the digitalization of our customer-facing activities, we turned to our customers, asking them: “What if you could unlock your productivity with digital workflows, manage plant inventories with real-time supply chain information, and enable faster decision-making with data visualization?” Once we identified their needs, we focused on developing a technology platform that would address them in one cohesive environment, rather than providing individual plug-and-play tools and multiple digital add-ons.
The pci | bridge Platform
The culmination of our collaborative work with clinical and commercial clients is our new customer platform — pci | bridge. Developed to complement our client services and project management capabilities, pci | bridge creates simple and efficient ways of working together.
At the highest level, the platform helps customers make informed and timely decisions on inventory, production, distribution, and more, using real-time supply chain data. The platform does this in a highly secure environment, protecting customers and their data from vulnerabilities.
In addition to real-time supply chain insights — and we truly mean real-time, with minimal lag time — pci | bridge includes three other key components: digital collaboration tools, organized data dashboards, and the ability to generate customizable reports. The digital collaboration tools include Smartsheets, DocuSign, and other third-party plug-ins, as well as some internally developed tools for more efficient interactions.
In today’s environment, the need to share real-time data is only growing. With everything transitioning into a digital environment, there is a need to not only have data available, but to provide it as near to real time as possible to facilitate truly informed decisions.
The data dashboards established throughout the platform provide an easy way to access and digest commonly sought-after supply chain information very quickly and in a consistent format. A project timeline is also available in pci | bridge, clearly indicating current progress and set milestones. Chat functionality in the platform enables customers to speak directly with the project team from the outset of a project, helping to facilitate up-to-the-minute information sharing. We have also included a document-sharing capability with version tracking to make exchanging files easier.
In addition to being able to see and access all of their data, customers can create customizable reports to meet different business requirements and run them as frequently as they like. Users can also access pci | bridge from their desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. The mobile app has all of the same functionality, except for some reporting capabilities that currently push past the limits of resolution on a screen of that size.
With all of the features incorporated into pci | bridge, PCI Pharma Services customers can make informed decisions based on real-time insights, collaborate more effectively, speed validations, create customized reports for greater efficiency, and do so knowing that their sensitive project information and data is protected in a cyber-secured platform.
Streamlining Internal Operations
The pci | bridge platform provides real benefits to PCI Pharma Services project teams. In many instances, because clients are now able to directly access their own project information, they no longer need to contact their PCI project team as frequently, which has dramatically reduced the email burden and increased the convenience on the client side. At the same time, new digital tools (e.g., chat, document sharing) within pci | bridge make it possible for the project team to interact with clients in new ways that did not previously exist and in a more organized and coherent fashion. The result is that managing the day-to-day aspects of their jobs is much easier, freeing up time to focus on value-added activities.
Rolling Out to Customers
The launch of pci | bridge began in late September 2020 and will continue throughout the remainder of the year. The first customers to receive the system were those who collaborated on building, designing, and developing the platform, but eventually, all customers will be introduced to it. The feedback has been very positive, with many clients indicating that the system goes above and beyond anything that they have worked with before. They are also excited about the future possibilities for pci | bridge and have been suggesting additional features and functionalities that would be beneficial to include in our next version.
Most users are accessing the system on their desktops, which is not surprising, given that pci | bridge is a business application heavy in data. Approximately one quarter have been using the apps designed for mobile phones and tablets, both instead of, and in addition to, desktop access.
Security within the pci | bridge platform has been carefully established, taking into consideration the needs of different types of users on both the clinical and commercial sides of our business, and both internally and at our clients’ organizations. We implemented a multistage approval process in terms of who can access the platform, what data they can access, and when they can access it. Each client employee has an individual user account, complete with specific roles and permissions, which are managed through the multistage approval process. We also have a detailed system for managing blinded and unblinded data for clinical trials.
The COVID-19 Test
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic was an early, real-life test for the pci | bridge platform, occurring while it was still under development. Fortunately, PCI was already on our digital transformation journey and ready to implement solutions required to keep our operations and our clients’ projects on track. Building the platform while experiencing the challenges created by COVID-19 also created greater insight into customer needs for daily information and enhanced project management capabilities.
Bridging the Supply Chain
The pci | bridge platform is a bridge to our customers’ full supply chains that enables them to access and understand all of their data and information — and it also serves as a bridge in many other aspects. For instance, PCI is focused on serving as a bridge between life-changing therapies and patients by helping our customers’ products effectively reach consumers.
In addition, pci | bridge is a powerful tool for increasing the comfort level of clients moving from clinical trials toward commercialization. All of their information is organized in the same format on the same platform. Combined with the extensive project management capabilities included in the system, the transition is seamless and offers customers real peace of mind. Furthermore, the platform is suitable for clients of any size with one or many projects at different development stages and involving small to large volumes. The pci | bridge system has been designed to be effective for very small clinical trial projects as well as very large-scale commercial products.
Finally, pci | bridge connects our customers to a broad array of PCI Pharma Services’ capabilities. Customers that use the platform are able to see everything from inventory through production and distribution, and thus gain a macro perspective of PCI operations from project management all the way across the supply chain. The platform functions as a mirror image of what it’s like to work with PCI. In that way, the platform is an important reflection of PCI’s commitment to providing positive customer experiences and a bridge for ensuring true customer satisfaction by continuing to improve.
Embracing the Future
Built to deliver key benefits for our clients, pci | bridge is one way we are anticipating and embracing the future through digitalization and technology. Although we have only recently launched the platform, we are already building for the future with different functionalities and capabilities. One example is requesting shipments, but there are many more — the update will include added customization and enhancements.
In today’s environment, the need to share real-time data is only growing. With everything transitioning into a digital environment, there is a need to not only have data available, but to provide it as near to real time as possible to facilitate truly informed decisions. As consumers increasingly expect almost real-time service, the ability to translate that personal experience into a business mindset and business experience is becoming essential.
Our focus is to make life easier not only for our clients, but also the patients they are serving. That goal is always on our minds as we make digital connections possible and will continue to be important as we build out the pci | bridge platform. We know our customers are working tirelessly to make a better future for patients everywhere a reality.