Session Astellas

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’

How pharma company Astellas is moving slow and steady to secure its supply chain future.

For Niels Toussaint, Global Process Owner of Demand & Supply Management at Astellas Pharma, securing the supply chain into the future is a slow but steady process.

‘New products are our lifeline,’ he says of the mid-size Japanese company. ‘And we can only secure them by securing the supply chain. In our planning, logistics and manufacturing, we focus exclusively on supply. Because if you are a patient, we want you to count on us to have the products you need available.’

But the pharma industry is undergoing deep and ‘challenging’ changes. Astellas needs to manufacture products cheaper to get back its investment and then divest to bigger companies and move on to new products.

‘We cannot compete with the big guys, like Pfizer,’ says Toussaint. ‘So we are shifting to a more niche market. Our historically small, simple molecule products will eventually be changing into regenerative single patient cell therapies, where a patient comes to a clinic for a mini-manufactured product.’

That is still years in the future. But the company must prepare its supply chain now. ‘We have to adjust ways to work faster,’ he says. ‘Normally, we have one year of stock. But some of the news products will last only days. With output more uncertain, the bandwidth of error in the planning environment is very challenging. And because we don not have experience with single patient cell therapy yet, we will have to partner with other companies.’

Astellas is using a three-phased, six-year plan for its ‘supply chain planning journey’. The company is focusing on the process, starting small, establishing in the EMEA region first. As technology allows for more computer input, people can focus on planning instead. ‘Focus on the process and people first,’ advises Toussaint. ‘Then on the tools. And adjust the pace to accommodate slow adopters.’ Globalization will come gradually, and as Astellas goes further on its journey, it will learn, like computers, from its earlier stages.

‘We will have time to adjust,’ says Toussaint. ‘While we don not have many S&OP issues now, we need to ready ourselves for the future supply chain environment. Afterall, Rome wasn’t built in a day!’

Lauren Comiteau
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