Creating a supply chain solution to support rapid business growth

Complex supply chain and lots of data

EBB Medical, a Swedish pharmaceutical supplier, sources their products from a number of different wholesalers within the EU and brings them to the Swedish market. The product pipeline is quite complex due to the number of parties involved: several manufacturers and packaging providers are used, all based in different countries. “We are a parallel importer,” explains Simas Sabonis, Market Analyst for EBB Medical. “We need to find the right products within the EU, repackage them and send them to the Swedish market.”

One of their challenges is the amount of data they need to manage on a daily basis. “We are working with medical products and have a lot of product information to keep track of,” says Pernilla Eddby, Managing Director for EBB Medical. Their previous process for storing data was a mixture of paper based documents and electronic records without clear structure. “We were using Excel sheets but the time came when we saw that it was no longer effective to use due to the growing numbers of products,” says Eddby. Because of the complex supply chain and inconsistent data management it was difficult to ensure traceability for their pharmaceutical products.

EBB Medical’s processes were also heavily reliant on manual labour: every order was double-checked by hand to ensure the right quality. With growing turnover it was becoming more and more difficult to manage. They needed a solution that would help ensure both the highest quality standards and traceability for their products. “Because we work with pharmaceuticals, quality is crucial,” says Sabonis. “The need to avoid human errors alone was a big enough reason for developing a custom software solution, so that we wouldn't need to waste time checking every little thing.”

Increasing speed and agility while maintaining quality

We created a custom supply chain management system which provided traceability and optimised the product pipeline.

Employees previously had to manually create purchase orders, packaging instructions and labels for their repackaging providers. It was a long and cumbersome process. Automated document creation and sharing eliminated a large amount of manual labour and made collaboration among supply chain partners a lot easier. Integration with EBB Medical’s resource management system helped to further streamline their product pipeline. By having clear insight into the various activities of their supply chain, EBB Medical have been able to increase the speed and agility of their processes. “It helped us optimise our quality assurance process,” says Sabonis. “Information is moving around faster, we are experiencing fewer errors and we are saving a lot of time.”

EBB Medical also participates in public tenders for pharmaceuticals used in hospitals and primary care centers. When the supplier’s prices are the lowest on the market they need to ensure uninterrupted supply of the drug for the whole month. With a centralised platform EBB Medical now have up-to-date visibility of their sales and can easily visualise their forecasts. Automated notifications help with ensuring that stock levels are sufficient to satisfy the projected demand and products approaching expiry date are disposed of.

“Initially the system was planned to be a database of product information,” says Eddby. But as EBB Medical realised the benefits of having a centralised data source, the scope of the system expanded. The system provides deep insight into all historical transactions, which has enabled batch traceability while leveraging reporting tools allows easy access to decision-ready information. “Today we are using it for creating quality documents, production and purchase orders, batch traceability, statistics and much more,” adds Eddby. The added transparency and traceability also had a noticeable impact on communication between the different departments. “The teams are up-to-date on what has been completed and what still needs to be done,” says Sabonis. With further system development we are moving towards providing direct access for their supply chain partners which would help to optimise the product pipeline even more.

EBB Medical has experienced significant growth over the last few years: their turnover has increased around 3 times and the number of employees has grown more than 50% across the different departments. With the new system EBB Medical was able to successfully manage this growth while maintaining both the quality and speed of their operations. “It’s a fact that without this system we’d probably have 4 times as many people if we wanted to continue working at the same pace,” says Sabonis. Having a single source of data also allowed the team to gain greater visibility into their workflow which has enabled batch traceability and made forecasting much easier. Eddby sees the system as one of the key elements of their success: “We would not have been able to grow as a company if we hadn’t taken the step to a computerised system.”