5 focus areas for a secure primary packaging supply chain

5 focus areas for a secure primary packaging supply chain

For organisations requiring highly regulated and specialist primary packaging, access to a reliable supply chain plays a large role in determining overall success or failure.

Supply chain resilience can serve as a significant competitive advantage for businesses operating in the life sciences, diagnostics and pharmaceutical sectors, enabling them to fulfill immediate orders with confidence and plan more effectively.

By contrast, a poor primary packaging supply chain can delay projects, impacting an organisation’s ability to meet its objectives, while also leaving it poorly prepared for the future.

The gap between effective and ineffective supply chains has become even greater as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has posed a wide range of associated challenges, from access to raw materials to ensuring production capacity.

In this blog we look at five key areas to consider when looking to improve the reliability of your primary packaging supply chain.

Raw material access

When it comes to accessing the critical raw materials required for specialist primary packaging, particularly for those related to pharmaceutical glass products, the impact of Covid-19 has caused noticeable disruption. This has happened at a time when the requirement for pharmaceutical glass vials, for example, and other forms of primary packaging related to the battle against coronavirus, has soared. Given the global nature of raw material markets, no provider can claim to be immune from these difficulties, and even during more normal times raw material supplies can pose issues. However, some primary packaging suppliers are better placed to manage these challenges than others as a direct result of the flexibility they have when it comes to raw material access. While some suppliers will have greater restrictions that require them to access materials from a limited number of sources, others will be able to obtain resources more freely, ensuring they are better placed to maintain a reliable primary packaging supply to customers.

Production contingencies

Any supply chain is only as resilient as the contingency options it has in place and primary packaging sourcing is no different. Contingencies can be provided in several ways. Having a supplier with various manufacturing locations can enable orders to be fulfilled at speed where required and often enables a flexible approach to production, where volumes can be increased or decreased as needed. If an organization requiring specialist primary packaging is operating globally, a sensible approach to contingency should also include ensuring manufacturing capabilities are present in more than one geographical region. This will help to remove the possibility of supplies being interrupted by localized issues. Other contingency considerations include the management of effective secondary supply options. Again, a secondary supplier should also be assessed against similar contingency measures in order to develop even greater supply chain resilience.

Onshore supply presence

While primary packaging supply chains in the vast majority of sectors are global by nature, ensuring key parts of your requirements are manufactured onshore where possible can reduce critical delays and potential supply chain vulnerabilities. DWK Life Sciences recently announced a supply chain agreement for borosilicate pharmaceutical glass vials with the UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC). The organisation is tasked with providing the country’s first strategic vaccine development and manufacturing capabilities and having an onshore primary packaging supply source formed a key requirement for what VMIC defined as ‘sovereign resilience’. And while the ongoing race to develop vaccines clearly creates an immediate driver for the insurance of localised supplies, it is important that other forms of primary packaging supply chains also look at onshore sourcing as a way of improving resilience.

Supply chain simplicity

Having a true single source primary packaging supply chain is often not feasible or even desirable where supply chain resilience is concerned. However, having an overly complicated supply chain is equally as detrimental to its overall security. A reduction in the number of suppliers your business is dealing with will help to reduce the complexity of your supply chain management while also limiting the potential for delays. If your primary packaging supplier can provide other contingency measures, such as multiple production sites and a wider access to raw materials, and also has a wide primary packaging portfolio, it might be appropriate to consider a ‘single-source’ approach to various products as a way of reducing the impact on resilience that an overly complex supply chain can pose.

Quality Assurance

Most primary packaging, particularly packaging that is used to support highly sensitive areas like IVD and pharmaceutical applications, is subject to stringent criteria. But an individual supplier’s commitment to quality as well as their approach to quality assurance, can vary, with poor quality processes resulting in unnecessarily delays. Being familiar with your suppliers QA processes and the steps they take before you receive your supplies is critical. In addition to standard accreditations, such as ISO and UKAS certification, it is also helpful to familiarize yourself with the internal procedures and initiatives your supplier has in place to ensure a commitment to quality and continuous improvement within its production process. The addition of such initiatives can provide another level of resilience to your supply chain. How robust is your supply chain? Get in touch to speak to one of our experts here