Here’s How Johnson & Johnson Is Harnessing Data and Robotics to Optimise the Supply Chain End-to-End

Pharmaceutical and medical devices giant Johnson & Johnson has gotten off to a flying start in 2018. The company recently reported higher-than-expected sales for Q1, and subsequently boosted its sales outlook for the year to $81 billion to $81.8 billion.

At the same time, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would be restructuring its supply chain to focus resources on developing newer technologies and capabilities. A spokesperson for the company told in-Pharma Technologist in May that Johnson & Johnson expects to take certain actions across their supply chain over the next four to five years that will generate approximately $600 million to $800 million in annual pre-tax cost savings.

The ultimate goal of the restructuring is to focus the company’s resources away from technologies related to “older parts” of the company’s portfolio, and increase investments in “critical capabilities” and “new technologies”.

Johnson & Johnson has been focussing heavily on pioneering high-tech new strategies to digitise increasingly larger swathes of its supply chain over recent years – and this recent announcement is the latest indication that the company will be continuing in this vein for the foreseeable future.

But what, specifically, is the company doing and investing in to increase the efficiency of its supply chain? From robotics to data harnessing, let’s take a look at some of the digital supply chain innovations Johnson & Johnson is currently utilising.

YuMi – A Collaborative Robot

Next-generation manufacturing tools and techniques are introducing radical changes to the Johnson & Johnson factory floor. For example, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are currently being utilised to collect data from various manufacturing processes. This data is then processed by analytics systems to constantly refine and perfect operations in real-time.

"The company can apply the same concepts to prevent machine failure – such as with the predictive real-time modelling we do to determine when equipment is starting to deviate from historical process ranges, so we can proactively adjust the equipment before it does so," explains Remo Colarusso, Vice President, Supply Chain, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. "Before this digitisation, there was simply not enough data, nor the ability to process it in real time, to be truly predictive."

More exciting than this, however, has been the introduction of robots within Johnson & Johnson’s supply chain division. Known as YuMi (short for “you and me”), the machines are the world’s first collaborative, dual arm robots that are able to work alongside humans and perform repetitive, routine tasks, helping to increase productivity and thereby get products to consumers faster.

YuMi is able to tackle tasks that require a high degree of accuracy and repeatability, such as assembling small parts, with incredible precision – in fact, YuMi is so precise that it can thread a needle, making all supply chain work it performs highly accurate and reliable.

Stefan Beyeler, Leader of the Packaging Centre of Excellence at Johnson & Johnson, says that using automating equipment like YuMi helps them create “high-quality, innovative products that will become more and more individualised.”

Harnessing Data to Deliver Better Healthcare

While technology has been steadily improving supply chain logistics in industries like retail and manufacturing, it’s been noted that the healthcare industry has lagged behind somewhat. In the UK, for instance, a review of NHS procurement by Lord Carter found that savings of around £1 billion a year could be achieved if standard improvements in the supply chain – as seen in other industries – were adopted.

Seeking better solutions, Dr Diego Lauritano, Supply Chain Director at one of the biggest public hospitals in Italy, began working with Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices (JJMD), which had been collaborating with a number of hospitals to improve supply chain issues.

Forming a partnership, together they established a multi-disciplinary team – including clinicians, pharmacists, and IT and supply chain experts – to implement a new system named ‘Resolution’ within the hospital, and the results have been fantastic. In wards, clinical staff now spend 86.9% less time on logistical and admin tasks, meaning staff are able to devote more time to patient care. There has been a 76.8% time reduction in the logistics department for receiving products, and the accuracy of tracking information has also been vastly improved.

“We’ve seen great time savings, both in the logistics department and within the wards,” said Dr Lauritano. “This means that our staff spend less time on admin and more time caring for patients. It also helps our staff development. Our engineers have gained new skills by having the opportunity to work with radio-frequency identification technology. Our staff are very enthusiastic about this project, because they can see real benefits.”

Elsewhere, Johnson & Johnson is working on a digitally augmented pill bottle, which can monitor how often patients are using medication and then send the information back to healthcare companies to help fine-tune treatment regimes. New track and trace technologies are also being worked on to help determine the authenticity of drugs and how efficiently they are delivered to patients.

“Through compliant means, we are working to gather more data and insights about how we’re currently serving our patients,” Colarusso explains. “It will help us to give them not just a product, but an actual solution that better serves their needs.”

Final Thoughts

From collaborative robots on the factory floor to improving patient experiences, Johnson & Johnson is looking to digitise every link of the supply chain. And as the company announces its plan to reallocate resources into further technological development and strategic collaborations, it’s clear Johnson & Johnson will continue to be a leader in the space for many years to come.

The last word goes to Remo Colarusso. “We are working to optimise the supply chain end-to-end so that we not only meet the needs of the patient today, but also anticipate and understand how we can meet their needs tomorrow in a transformational way.”

You can hear Rick Desmarais, Global Director of Operating System Deployment at Johnson & Johnson Health Care, speak at LogiMed 2018 this October at Novotel in Amsterdam. Download the Agenda today for more information and insights.

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