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As EVERSANA’s 3PL business reaches its 30th anniversary, Pharma Commerce caught up with Danny Williams, the company’s president of Channel Management, to get his thoughts on how global channel management and 3PL has changed over the last three decades, how COVID-19 has impacted that progress, and what we can expect to see in the space in the future.
Pharma Commerce: What would you say have been the most significant developments in distribution in the last 30 years? How have clients’ expectations changed?
Danny Williams: It has been amazing to watch the business reach new heights since we were part of the first six companies that came together in 2018 to create EVERSANA. But prior to that and for three decades, we have operated a growing pharmaceutical 3PL business primarily operating in Memphis, TN, and Milwaukee, WI, that distributes therapies to hospitals, clinics, healthcare providers (HCPs), pharmacies, and other institutions across the globe.
Our 3PL services have evolved to meet client needs. Originally, the business was established primarily for warehousing and distribution. But as clients’ needs developed, so did our service offerings; over time we provided not only full-forward distribution but also reverse logistics.
Then the demand for order to cash and revenue management services grew, and by listening to and anticipating the needs of our clients and the industry at large, we continued to adapt. We are one of the largest, independent providers of 3PL services specifically focused on life sciences in the US. Our facilities in Memphis span north of 900,000 square feet across three facilities. Memphis has been called “America’s Distribution Center.” Its central location is within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the US population, making it a major trucking distribution hub to the nation. It also has the world’s busiest cargo airport and more major metro areas can be reached overnight from Memphis than any other city in the central US.
In addition to our facilities in Memphis, our Fontana, CA, distribution center provides options for our clients’ west coast customers and expands our reach for their benefit. These facilities operate at a 99.998% accuracy rate at the unit level for all products and maintain accreditation by NABP-DDA and DEA certifications along with state licensure to ensure complete nationwide distribution.
We have invested in facilities to expand our footprint; our capabilities to manage the needs of clients and their products, including in temperature-sensitive spaces to store cold and frozen therapies; and in data and reporting technologies to provide clients with deeper analytics of where their products are at all times.
How have expectations changed? There has been a shift in the perception of what clients want in their 3PL provider. When we first opened and even in a few cases today, clients want a vendor—an outsourced company to help handle distribution or logistics. Over time, this expectation from clients has shifted to be a much more partnership-based relationship. This has changed the paradigm of how we interact with clients and their broader network of suppliers, CMOs, packagers and customers.
How is EVERSANA deploying channel management and 3PL differently than its competitors?
We deploy scaling infrastructure and extensive knowledge from both sides of the industry in a neutral, non-conflicting perspective, which helps our clients put the best strategy together for their distribution needs. We are not owned by a wholesaler, a payer, or a transportation provider. We can work across all these important constituents to put services together that maximize benefits for our clients.
A couple of the services that set us apart include the deployment of alternative channel solutions for clients. For example, in our e-commerce model, clients may strategically bypass the wholesaler and/or specialty distributor to distribute their products directly to the site of care (e.g., hospitals and physicians’ offices). By working directly with their end customers, pharma manufacturers can establish valuable one-on-one relationships while capturing the data and insights to operate in a more agile fashion. Deep insights into the entire delivery model help them increase the visibility of their brand, reduce the cost of doing business and manage their customer experience in a way that builds brand equity.
As an example, orders from clients’ customers are processed from our facility and shipped directly with all invoicing and A/R work being managed by our team. This fully outsourced service acts as an extension of the clients’ sales and finance teams. We have a growing number of clients in several therapeutic categories, including dermatology and ophthalmology, who have these types of programs in place.
What have been the highlights of your tenure at EVERSANA?
First, when we learned we would be a part of EVERSANA and what this company’s vision was, it provided strong wind in our sails. We already had a growing 3PL business, but to combine it with everything EVERSANA was building to create a truly independent, end-to-end commercialization platform with patients at the heart of it was very memorable. Those first months of connecting with other leaders in the new organization and realizing our opportunity to impact lives and to create a healthier world were—and continue to be—incredibly rewarding.
A key highlight was the development and launch of our Urgent Access program, which provides the coordination and delivery of life-saving therapies to patients impacted with rare diseases for urgent administration within eight hours or less in the US. The program has helped save thousands of lives in the past few years, and every story is meaningful to our team and serves as a great reminder of why we do what we do.
Most recently, I’m proud of how our teams operated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Executing dynamic operational plans to continue to distribute much-needed therapies spoke to the resiliency of the team and the commitment of our employees. While many were working remotely, our dedicated employees exemplified the word commitment by undertaking new protocols to keep operations moving and distribute therapies and diagnostic testing that helped patients during the pandemic.
How has the pandemic disrupted the advancement of the distribution space that was already underway before 2020? Similarly, how did it change the way you and your team worked ?
COVID changed many aspects of our business, but it also helped address some more-traditional operational models that benefited from a new way of thinking for manufacturers.
Many manufacturers pre-COVID took a “just-in-time” inventory approach, ensuring they had the products at the distribution centers to meet current demand but not much more. Operations during the pandemic showed that by having additional inventory available, especially at times of disruption, and rigorous business continuity plans, patient needs could continue to be met. We have seen more clients begin thinking this way and adopting strategies to reinforce supply. This is a win for the industry and for patients.
COVID drove increased connectivity between manufacturers and our team. The increased frequency in communication due to the real-time challenges experienced in the global supply chain created new venues to collaboratively problem-solve and expand our support to clients and their patients.
Similarly, our data and analytics capabilities and ability to share real-time information about where products were in the supply chain grew dramatically during COVID. Information was critical during those uncertain early days, and through the systems we had in place, we were able to help remediate concerns regarding inventory levels and key product deliveries throughout the supply chain.
This led to more strategic conversations on planning and forecasting. Conversations shifted to strategic topics including risk management, backup distribution channels, alternative import options, enhanced demand planning and other areas to aid clients navigating the uncertainty while striving to maintain product supply for their customers and patients.
Like so many others in our industry, COVID impacted our operations.Our teams acted with tremendous agility in ensuring operational resiliency. With an in-person workforce operating 24 hours a day five days a week, we had to quickly implement employee health testing and safety protocols.
Leveraging digital technologies in all aspects of communications, I am proud to say has helped us be more efficient than ever. Some of them, like virtual tours and audits, are likely here to stay. Yes, clients and prospects love to see our space and meet face to face with our SMEs, but the option to show them our facilities in a one- to two-hour tour and meet with key members of our team remotely, saving them time and travel expense, has been well received.
And while the pandemic has slowed many businesses, ours has accelerated, allowing for investment into our next phase of growth.
What do you think will be the “next big thing” in global channel management and 3PL?
I think there are many things. First, technology will continue to evolve to make distribution more efficient and provide greater visibility to clients. We believe it is a combination of the impact data can have on decision-making for customers and then connecting this data to distribution strategies to help drive better delivery on a global level. Some of this will be applied through artificial intelligence, IOT, and automation but also just having improved access to data from multiple sources to drive decision-making.
We have invested in this infrastructure through our ACTICS by EVERSANA platform, which has tens of millions of data points across multiple data sets that will help drive better decision-making for manufacturers for their launch strategies and how we connect with patients. Clients are recognizing that the launch of a product is not a US-only decision. Ex-US markets are attractive to launch their assets, so EVERSANA has invested in expanding its services to assist launching across the globe.
A second big thing also connected to data is synergizing information across multiple channels: From distribution and supply chain to the patient hub and the field deployment teams. In doing so, real-time barriers to product access can be addressed, leading to faster therapy initiation and adoption. Right now, many manufacturers silo these functions, and they do not have a single source of truth to solve challenges or pivot strategies. Connecting the dots across these functional areas is the foundation of true “patient-centricity” because we can pull all the levers when needed to ensure patients receive the therapy they need.
And finally, the “next big thing” is about complete commercialization—manufacturers turning to true experts in commercialization that can deliver on every element of commercialization. Gone are the days of eight to ten vendors; companies can now turn to a single partner who has done it and can continue to do it with excellence at a global scale. But at the end of the day, to be effective, you must have passionate, committed people who will do whatever it takes to ensure patients receive their therapies. We have that at EVERSANA, and I’m privileged to see it in action daily across all of our team members.
Danny Williams is President, Channel Management, EVERSANA