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Supply chain improvements enhance process, business


Strategic investments that AmerisourceBergen is making into its supply-chain platform are driving an enhanced, best-in-class customer experience.

“We take great pride in our ability to increasingly meet the needs of our pharmaceutical manufacturer partners on a global scale, and to use our extensive knowledge, reach and partnership philosophy to help our healthcare provider customers better serve their patients,” Steve Collis, Chairman, President and CEO, told analysts during a recent earnings call. “I truly believe that this is a time of tremendous opportunity for independent pharmacies. The future is in value-based and patient-centered care, which is exactly the type of care that our independent pharmacy customers excel at providing,” he said. “The future will also demand a seamless integration of technology and personalized service, and our latest offerings in these areas will enable our independent customers to be on the forefront of this evolution in pharmacy care.”

“We know that AmerisourceBergen is uniquely positioned to help [our independent pharmacy partners],” Bob Mauch, EVP and President, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., shared during the General Session of ThoughtSpot 2016. “Sometimes that help means being unseen. It means that we show up every day with the products you need to treat your patients,” he said. “It means not getting in the way. It also means providing solutions that are strategically relevant to your business while being economically competitive. Simply put: It means helping you run a healthy business so you have time to care for your patients.”

To that end, AmerisourceBergen has invested heavily into three areas that are really delivering a positive return to its independent partners:

  • Investing into its customer-facing programs to make its ordering process easier to interface.

  • Enhancing its infrastructure to create supply chain efficiencies.

  • Improving internal quality measures to facilitate continual improvements in the services the company brings to market.

Chuck BallIt all comes down to one core component: AmerisourceBergen is a partner “that’s easy to do business with,” noted Chuck Ball, SVP Distribution Services at AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., in an exclusive interview with Drug Store News during the heavily attended ThoughtSpot 2016 conference. “[The customer experience] is really one of our top priorities, not only on the sales side but also operationally,” he said.

AmerisourceBergen has done its homework, Ball explained, with a significant amount of customer outreach to uncover the pain-points specific to independent pharmacy so that AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy can better develop programs enabling independents to overcome those hurdles.

A prime example of that kind of customer-wholesaler collaboration on program creation is ABC Order, a simple and to-the-point ordering system modeled after other super-efficient consumer ordering interfaces like

Moving from the pilot phase to launch in 2017, the idea is to unlock and enhance the actual in-store ordering experience. “We [hired] a third-party consultancy, and they worked with hundreds of customers and spent thousands of hours with them on workflow and what they needed to do every day to interact with us,” Ball said. “When you’re deeply listening to your customer, sometimes the answer can be very simple and very obvious.”

ABC Order will deliver a search that is powerful and uncluttered, with an intuitive interface that recreates the kind of e-commerce experience users have with some of the top online retailers in the world. In addition, the new ordering system features built-in tools to help owners control and optimize inventory, as well as real-time delivery tracking and status updates.

In addition to creating a smooth order interface, AmerisourceBergen has streamlined its supply chain, enabling faster, more efficient deliveries and making AmerisourceBergen’s customers one of the first stops when a new product is introduced to the marketplace. “We made some investments operationally,” Ball said. “We’ve invested in service levels; we’ve invested in our transportation network. Mostly we’ve invested in our overall distribution networks.” Those investments have culminated in a $1 billion commitment to improving AmerisourceBergen’s infrastructure in the past 10 years.

“There’s a lot in progress. We’re in the process of building seven new distribution centers, for instance,” Ball said. “We’ve invested in our [enterprise resource planning] and our [systems, applications and products] platforms, so we’re doing a lot of things right now to make us easier to do business with.”

Peyton Howell, President, Global Sourcing and Manufacturer Relations at AmerisourceBergen, suggested the company serves as a bridge between its independent community and global manufacturers. “When we think about creating value, it’s in the context of making that bridge as strong and as wide as possible,” she shared with ThoughtSpot 2016 attendees at the General Session. “We work to ensure that you have economically competitive access to the healthcare products you need to run your business and care for your patients.”

And that bridge travels in both directions, meaning AmerisourceBergen is making it easier for manufacturers to do business as well. Recently, AmerisourceBergen delivered on one manufacturer’s interest in getting a generic to market on the first day of FDA approval. The approval went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on a Monday, and all of AmerisourceBergen’s retail partners had that generic product on their shelves by that afternoon.

“We challenged the [AmerisourceBergen] team to think of ways we could get this done, and we’re pretty proud to say we got 99.99% of the product delivered on Monday as a prime example of the way we can leverage this infrastructure and this idea of having operational agility within the network,” Ball said. “Our competitors didn’t get it there until Tuesday, so it was a great way for us to differentiate ourselves to all of our customers.”

Finally, AmerisourceBergen has formalized a continuous improvement process that will help the company continue to drive better performance. “A lot of people are implementing Lean Six Sigma,” Ball said. “Ours is really a hybridization of some of the formal quality programs that are out there — something that works for us.”

AmerisourceBergen has always maintained a commitment to escalating performance, but now it is investing in a quality staff and a quality process. “We want to deliver a better product; we want to deliver everything a customer expects on-time every day,” Ball said. “And the only way you’re going to do that is by having a formal quality program. … There are 50 projects we’re working on to improve the customer’s experience and get us to the place where we’re easier to do business with.”

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