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Pedigree-pioneering team resurfaces with cloud-based collaborative platform
As promised last summer, TraceLink Inc. (Woburn, MA) has just introduced a suite of products to allow biopharma manufacturers (and others) to collaborate on a Web-based platform with the goal of increased visibility both down the supply chain to trading partners, and back to contract manufacturers and supply sources. The core management team of TraceLink, led by company president Shabbir Dahod, comes from SupplyScape, the company that pioneered pedigree technology to meet the first wave of state-level pedigree programs, then imploded after the California e-pedigree initiative was postponed in late 2008. Last summer, with venture backing, SupplyScape was acquired by newly formed TraceLink.
Based on company announcements, TraceLink is attempting to adapt hosted, Web-based collaborative tools to chemical, food and beverage and biopharma industries, and their business partners. Organizations will be able to join a network, then use a suite of resources to organize structured and unstructured data to manage supply, demand and visibility activities. The suite includes:
SupplyNexus and ProcessLink are two additional services to provide secure connectivity to create virtual teams to propose or manage supply networks. The company says that it is applying some of the same tools that have been developed at social networks like LinkedIn or Twitter to streamline data-sharing (although it avoids use of one of the common catchphrases in this arena, software as a service or SaaS).
“This is the next generation of supply chain collaborative tools,” says Dahod. “A company can register, set up a process link, and begin collaborating with partners almost immediately.” Unlike existing portals, supplier hubs or similar efforts at collaboration, there is no need to build IT interfaces between systems; trading partners agree on what standards or terminologies to adopt (such as EDI data exchange, the GS1 standards, or others), and then use them. The system could even have value for internal collaborative processes between, say, two departments in an organization, or in cases of acquired companies being merged. “We’re trying to get away from the burdensome 18-36-month IT implementations that commonly occur today,” he says.
A company that wants to set up a collaboration registers for free, then pays $250 per month for each trading partner that joins the network.
“Visibility” and “collaboration” have been two of the more aspirational goals of today’s supply-management data systems; and while pedigree documentation (the requirement to produce a record of where a drug shipment has come from) mostly exists as a recordkeeping function, it has the potential to be a collaborative tool as well. Pedigree requirements originated in an era where trading partners needed to secure their supply chains against diverted or counterfeit product. Subsequently, problems with ensuring the integrity of raw material sources (as demonstrated by the heparin scandal of early 2009) led to industry efforts like the Rx-360 consortium, by which biopharma manufacturers hope to share sourcing information and quality audits. Both of these drives are progressing by fits and starts, with most of the attention being paid to developing common industry standards for defining products, processes and business transactions. At the same time, numerous IT vendors have proprietary systems for managing supply chains that are gradually opening up to evolving industry standards like those of the GS1 organization. It remains to be seen whether a Web-based, open-to-all platform like the Predictable Supply Suite will be able to move these collaborations forward faster. PC