Life Science Supply Chain: Strained by Single Use Adoption and complicated by Covid-19

During the pandemic, many people worried that the world would come to a complete standstill. Despite those worries, the supply chain marketplace has been steadily evolving and changing dramatically. The business world has been rapidly shifting to accommodate new safety measures, and manufacturing companies and those who rely on those suppliers have been remarkably busy over the past year making adjustments.

There have been significant acquisitions, consolidations, strategic roll-ups, and in some cases, established suppliers have become competitors because they have been acquired as part of a vertical integration strategy. If your company has relied on one supplier for a significant amount of time, it can be challenging to find a trustworthy alternative if the current situation changes. Foresight and Contingency Planning are becoming increasingly important to ensure that your processes stay up and running.

For example: In mid-2020, one well-known New England-based producer of plastic components was acquired by a large original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, to supply their own needs for plastic components. Other OEMs that have used the fabricator as a supplier previously now need to consider alternatives that are not in direct competition with their business. End-users have also been faced with recent supply chain changes as many local independently-owned distributors have been acquired by larger regional or national companies that are pursuing roll-up strategies. Often the quality of service and commitment to detail can suffer during these transactions, and product offerings can change as well.

The industry has been more volatile this year than any other that we have seen in recent history. Supply chain shortages have been commonplace in the wake of COVID-19. Between market volatility and the acquisitions, customers have watched these changes drive the supply chain market into an unprecedented competition for supplies. In addition, the added Covid-related safety measures and shipping restrictions have made it difficult to get the materials needed to keep critical processes going in a timely fashion.

The proliferation of single-use technologies have also created some obvious inherent supply chain challenges. When a tubeset, single-use valve, or a piece of equipment is validated for product contact, it is very difficult to substitute an alternate material without substantial testing. When a supplier Chain of Custody is validated and inspected, it becomes difficult to change that supplier even if the primary cannot deliver. While it is common to validate only one supply stream, any disruption in that chain can cause obvious, serious problems. Disruptions can occur even at major, multinational suppliers; as an example, our industry has faced shortage from the major supplier of ThermoPlastic Elastomer tubing over the last 18 months as the major compounder was challenged with raw material and capacity shortages. In this context, absorbing the cost of validating several suppliers begins to make sense.

Acuity works to offer our clients simple, actionable solutions by being a reliable safeguard and buffer against these shortages. We are proud to represent several alternate suppliers with robust supply chains that offer proprietary, easily validatable compounds for single-use tubing and pinch valves. We also have an internal process to keep our customers abreast of forthcoming supply chain or product updates that could affect a process. This is a formal quality control process that we regulate stringently, so everyone can take the necessary preparations needed to keep processes running smoothly, efficiently, and uninterrupted. It is our goal to provide up-to-date information that can help our clients plan for any change or fluctuation in market dynamics.

If you are interested in finding out more about how Acuity can be your partner to help mitigate supply chain interruption, contact us at (508) 809-5099 or at our website here!

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