Next time you pop a pill from a packet, spare a thought about how it got to you.
The process for manufacturing, packaging and delivering pharmaceuticals to pharmacies, surgeries and hospitals around the world is a complex one. It involves integrating information from hundreds of different organisations, each with a varying role in the overall process. To make things run smoothly and efficiently, each of these organisations needs the ability to easily share data with the pharmaceutical company making the product.
This is particularly true for the Orion Corporation, a globally operating Finnish company developing pharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests − a builder of well-being. Orion (based in Espoo) develops, manufactures and markets human and veterinary pharmaceuticals, active pharmaceutical ingredients and diagnostic tests.
In any month, Orion’s IT systems process over 12,000 instances of data from partners, suppliers and customers. Keeping sense of this data as it flows between Orion and these organisations requires an electronic data interchange (EDI) capability that can cope seamlessly with whatever these different systems throw at it.
Jari Seppänen, application technology manager at Orion, is responsible for making all this happen so that customers, whether big or small, can rely on accurate and efficient order processing. Seppänen’s team is also responsible, from an IT point of view, ensuring that partners are integrated into Orion’s own supply chain to optimise availability of raw materials for product manufacturing and packaging.
Outsourcing to Liaison
Because this is a complicated, time-consuming issue, Orion has outsourced a part of these data integration requirements to Liaison Technologies. Explaining the decision to outsource, Seppänen said: “To simplify a very complex supply chain is a huge job and clearly requires a team with specialist capabilities and a robust, proven technology platform to do it. By shifting part of this responsibility to Liaison the IT department at Orion can remain focused on supporting more business operations.”
Typically, orders come in from different partners across Europe. Orion sells to many wholesalers who distribute its products to pharmacies, surgeries and hospitals globally.
Keeping things simple
Whatever the size of the customer order, Orion relies on Liaison Technologies to make sure that the ordering process is simple, and that data from every order is dynamically integrated into Orion’s SAP system. This is done using two integration platforms from Liaison.
The majority of Orion’s partners (around 50) use Liaison’s SupplierWeb platform, a web-based portal that enables companies and their suppliers to automate manual processes and electronically trade with each other in an efficient, consistent manner regardless of size, time zone, language or geographic location. Any trading partner only requires a web browser and Internet connection to access SupplierWeb.
For its biggest customers with the most complex data integration needs, Orion relies on Liaison’s B2B integration platform, a service orientated architecture-based solution designed to meet the most demanding B2B integration needs. Some 15-20 customers, currently use this platform to deliver messages, documents and other content directly into Orion’s SAP platform.
Seppänen claims that both options on offer make life easier for Orion’s partners and customers because they can be more flexible with their own data integration standards. He said: “Liaison connects everything and seamlessly feeds the data into our SAP system. When adding new partners to existing integration scenarios, no one has to configure or manage anything manually; it works regardless of the protocols being used.”
Optimising stock levels
Integrating customers and partners with SAP through Liaison offers several advantages to all parties. Once customer orders are processed, the impact of that order on existing stocks of ingredients and materials is shared immediately with the relevant supplier.
As Seppänen explains: “We can tell in advance if we’re going to run out of something by a particular week, and the system automatically alerts the supplier to deliver new supplies ahead of any potential shortage. By optimising stock levels this way, Orion can keep very tight control over how much is stocked at any given time. This means that we hold only the stock we need to keep production running in line with ongoing customer demand, and are not locking up capital by holding too much unused stock in our warehouse.”
LENS keeps a close eye on things
Seppänen and his team recognise that providing accurate, timely and detailed information is critical to the business, especially since they are responsible for managing the critical messages and documents that make the supply chain operate every day. Liaison’s Enterprise Navigation System™ (LENS), a cloud-based, end-to-end Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) solution, gives complete visibility into everything that’s being integrated. It enables Orion to review and monitor performance against service level agreements and pro-actively manage its trading partners. “It also helps us identify any transaction errors so we can resolve them quickly,” added Seppänen.
There are other different trading relationships that also benefit from Orion’s flexibility. For example, integration with an e-commerce site run by one of Orion’s partners which sells self-care products directly to healthcare professionals in Finland. Or if a customer wants product marketing materials as well as actual products, the customer simply puts in the request for what they need and Liaison helps ensure the order components are consolidated and fulfilled together.
Seppänen concludes: “As a pharmaceutical company, we’re experts at making our products – our focus is not on data integration. It is why we rely on Liaison to handle this for us, our customers and our partners. Orion now has a better ability to make strategic business decisions based on what a customer or partner brings to Orion, regardless of their technology infrastructure or ours.”
Last updated on: 11/10/2012 15:21:20