One might suspect that a single-source supply chain moving from Utah to Wales to Australia and back might’ve been disrupted by a global pandemic that shook up 97% of other companies’ supply chains.
And yet we’ve maintained a consistent, reliable supply to our customers throughout this crisis; in fact, we haven’t had a shortage in over 15 years. It’s a good thing, too, seeing as snake bites across the US have increased these past few months, driving up the need for quality antivenom.
Numerous factors played a role in our continued success, but having strategic stocks on hand proved absolutely crucial – especially when the pandemic hit Melbourne hard, leaving us temporarily unable to deliver some of the venom collected in North America (for immunization in Australian sheep) and receive shipments of the serum produced by that process (for bioprocessing back in Wales). By having a buffer stock of serum saved up in both Australia and the UK, we were able to continue manufacturing CroFab® without delay or disruption, and without compromising quality.
Those strategic stocks weren’t built overnight. They were the result of investments made more than five years ago and a gradual buildup in the years that followed. As a complex biologic manufacturer, we couldn’t easily diversify our supply chains – the quality of our product relies on, for instance, collecting venom from four different snake species in the US, and using sheep from Australia (renowned for its biosecurity and high standards of animal welfare) for immunization. If we were to start from scratch, a batch of CroFab® would take 42 months from acquiring sheep and extracting venom to filling a vial with the final product. In other words, we operate far from the world of “just in time” manufacturing. Strategic stocks, in this case, were the logical answer – and they may be instructive for other manufacturers who rely on a single source of supply.
Yet when we started this process, of course, we were more worried about disruption to our facilities outside Adelaide due to a bush fire than due to a global virus. While a pandemic was on our risk radar, nobody could’ve predicted how fast Covid-19 shut things down and how pervasive its effects have been.
Fortunately for us, the same get-out-ahead-of-it thinking that produced our strategic stocks led us to establish a COVID crisis management team by late February. We immediately told any workers who could stay home to do so, and by mid-March we were checking temperatures and requiring daily health questionnaires be filled out. As in many other workplaces, we introduced necessary precautions, from signs reminding employees to wash their hands, to clearly delineated social distancing guidelines.
What’s more, in a moment rife with misinformation, we strove to provide our employees with constantly updated guidance on the evolving situation and how to stay safe. Above all, we wanted those who came (and continue to come) into work during the pandemic to feel comfortable.
As expected, they’ve gone above and beyond. Their efforts are in keeping with every aspect of our supply chain: from those at the top of the organization directing crisis management; to our suppliers, with whom we’ve stayed in constant communication about our respective business continuity plans; to the lorry drivers in Australia and our employees at our facilities in Wales.
They speak to what we’ve always believed in when it comes to manufacturing pharmaceuticals: that a transparent, quality process ensures a high quality product. We’re proud to have kept our production running safely, to have protected our employees, and that we can continue delivering this life and limb-saving product to those who need it – even in the midst of a global pandemic.