Inventory drivers in a pharmaceutical supply chain
Tutor / director / evaluatorLee Herbert-Hansen, Zaza Nadja
Document typeMaster thesis
Rights accessOpen Access
In recent years, inventory reduction has been a key objective of pharmaceutical companies, especially within cost optimization initiatives. Pharmaceutical supply chains are characterized by volatile and unpredictable demands –especially in emergent markets-, high service levels, and complex, perishable finished-good portfolios, which makes keeping reasonable amounts of stock a true challenge. However, a one-way strategy towards zero-inventory is in reality inapplicable, due to the strategic nature and importance of the products being commercialised. Therefore, pharmaceutical supply chains are in need of new inventory strategies in order to remain competitive. Finished-goods inventory management in the pharmaceutical industry is closely related to the manufacturing systems and supply chain configurations that companies adopt. The factors considered in inventory management policies, however, do not always cover the full supply chain spectrum in which companies operate. This paper works under the pre-assumption that, in fact, there is a complex relationship between the inventory configurations that companies adopt and the factors behind them. The intention of this paper is to understand the factors driving high finished-goods inventory levels in pharmaceutical supply chains and assist supply chain managers in determining which of them can be influenced in order to reduce inventories to an optimal degree. Reasons for reducing inventory levels are found in high inventory holding and scrap related costs; in addition to lost sales for not being able to serve the customers with the adequate shelf life requirements. The thesis conducts a single case study research in a multi-national pharmaceutical company, which is used to examine typical inventory configurations and the factors affecting these configurations. This paper presents a framework that can assist supply chain managers in determining the most important inventory drivers in pharmaceutical supply chains. The findings in this study suggest that while external and downstream supply chain factors are recognized as being critical to pursue inventory optimization initiatives, pharmaceutical companies are oriented towards optimizing production processes and meeting regulatory requirements while still complying with high service levels, being internal factors the ones prevailing when making inventory management decisions. Furthermore, this paper investigates, through predictive modelling techniques, how various intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence the inventory configurations of the case study company. The study shows that inventory configurations are relatively unstable over time, especially in configurations that present high safety stock levels; and that production features and product characteristics are important explanatory factors behind high inventory levels. Regulatory requirements also play an important role in explaining the high strategic inventory levels that pharmaceutical companies hold.