Founded in 1996, Pharma Logistics is an Illinois-based pharmaceutical reverse distribution platform built on a foundation of client-focused service.
With clients ranging from independent and small to large pharmacy chains, to physician offices and hospital pharmacies, to the Department of Defense (DOD) and VA Health System, their objective remains constant – make the pharmaceutical returns process as easy and compliant as possible.
The pharmaceutical returns process is highly sophisticated and vitally important. Compliance is a logistics journey. An efficient and timely returns process is critical to optimize cash flow and inventory for pharmacies of all sizes. Ultimately, this secure process helps optimize the nationwide pharmaceutical supply chain and protect the public from the risks of uncontrolled pharmaceutical disposal.
While Pharma Logistics was very successful, both the CEO, Michael Zaccaro, and the Head of IT, Navin Gopal, believed that the market potential was much larger and that with investment in the right technology infrastructure, Pharma Logistics could emerge as a disruptive leader in their industry. To that end, Pharma Logistics embarked on a significant digital transformation project leveraging state-of-the-art technologies across all aspects of their business.
Pharma Logistics, like almost all operations and supply-chain-oriented companies, had, through the course of many years, fine-tuned their operational processes, which were reflected in customized and proprietary systems that kept the business running.
The company’s physical world (how product is handled across their supply chain) and IT world (how the physical steps are orchestrated, monitored, and tracked) are deeply coupled. Transforming this IT infrastructure while continuing daily operations is daunting and requires best-of-breed technology, great execution partners, and an agile and flexible approach to digital transformation.
Luckily, Navin had strong sponsorship from the CEO and board, who all recognized the importance of this initiative. Navin’s experience as a consultant and operator also gave him the insights to understand the “art of the possible” as he sought next-generation solutions.
One of the critical elements of this initiative was a leap to cloud-based supply-chain management. This meant investing in technology upgrades across all significant business processes – marketing, sales, customer success, service, fulfillment, reconciliation, finance and accounting, and business analytics.
The solution architecture involved changes in business processes and investments in NetSuite, Hubspot, CouchDB, Snowflake, Orderful, and specialized logistics applications for scheduling and routing. In addition, several custom applications were built for service management, warehouse management, and reconciliations.
Navin recognized that a vital component of a scalable, secure and robust enterprise-grade solution was a system that could orchestrate all business processes in near-real time and act as the nervous system across the application ecosystem. Workato was selected for this critical function for its high reliability and security, cloud-native architecture, inherent scalability, and agility to adapt quickly as business needs evolved. Dispatch Integration was selected as the professional services partner to build and support the Workato-based integrations and data orchestration engine.
The transformation project took place over the course of 15 months. ERP go-lives can be some of the most stressful moments in an IT professional’s career. Stakes are high because failures can directly impact revenue, profitability, and customer experience. While the company was “all in” on the importance of the project, it couldn’t afford downtime or degraded customer experience during the transition. Workato’s agility was particularly valuable during validation and go-live because it enabled rapid changes to be implemented and regression-tested as each application and business process in scope was finalized.
Business results were immediate and dramatic. Operator efficiency improved by over 75% in core processes, alleviating chronic bottlenecks. Order efficiency was boosted significantly, with multi-step processes consolidated into single transactions. Customer experience was greatly enhanced due to these changes, with a much faster cycle time directly benefiting their cash flow.
Most importantly, this new infrastructure is flexible and scalable. Pharma Logistics can now confidently take on new contracts that are orders of magnitude greater than previously possible, knowing that new work can be streamlined into operations without any impact on existing customers.
Digital transformation is a journey, and sometimes, you take very big steps on that journey. Pharma Logistics recently took a huge step to transform its IT infrastructure, which in turn is transforming its business. Their success is largely due to powerful executive sponsorship, superior execution, and an understanding that the right IT strategy can provide a sustainable competitive advantage. Their success is also due to strong IT leadership that could create deep partnerships across the organization and with trusted vendors and services, such as Workato and Dispatch, that share this vision and passion for change.
Cameron Hay is the CEO of Dispatch Integration, a data integration and workflow automation company with clients in Canada, US, Europe and Australia. He has over 30 years of leadership experience in various technology-oriented industries.