Key Elements of Supplier Selection in Life Science

Developing a new product in life sciences requires companies to partner with just the right supplier in an industry that is highly regulated. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, especially when dealing with the front end of development like marketing and sales. For example, in healthcare, pharmaceutical sales representatives can make or break the success of a new drug. They educate physicians about these new products and offer their personal insights on emergent therapies and that requires the right training plan.

Pew Research estimates that the pharmaceutical industry spent over 27 billion dollars on drug promotion in 2012 including 24 billion marketing to medical professionals and 3 billion on consumer promotions. Marketing and sales are just one side of the overall commercial package, too. What about training and forecasting? How can companies find suppliers that fit well into their product development strategy?

In many ways, the hunt for the perfect supplier for life science projects is not that different than any other silo with a few minor exceptions. Consider some critical elements companies need during the supplier selection process in life sciences.

Make a Plan

Figuring out what you type of suppliers a new project needs is a starting place no matter what your industry. In commercial area of life sciences, the focus in most likely on:

Often the best approach is to create a project team that will define the necessary suppliers and then develop a list of protocols for making selections. With each category of service, write criteria for the supplier to meet before making the short list. With requirements established, the team can do research on various suppliers using a supplier search engine, get references when possible and vet their history.

Make Contact

Once the list is broken down to a few possible candidates in each sector, the project team can make contact with each one to gather further information. Compliance is always going to be an issue in life sciences, so generate a list of informal questions you need to ask each potential supplier such as what vendors they work with — the project team may need to vet their vendors, as well.

If you find one or two companies meet all the criteria, send them a formal request for more information. Your request should include:

  • An introduction and summary of the project
  • A list of requirements for the would-be supplier
  • Instructions on how to answer the request
  • Information regarding their understanding and ability to adhere to compliance regulations

That last step is especially critical in life sciences. By asking them up front, you get a sense of how well they understand the complexities of the industry and compliance issues. Ask them to submit a price quote as part of their information package they return to you.

Proof of Concept

As part of the formal information request, consider asking for a Proof of Concept (PoC). The PoC confirms that the supplier has a working understanding of the project including compliance issues. The better a supplier understands the project, the faster they can deliver their service without missteps and complications.

Create an Evaluation Strategy

One the most common-sense approaches to evaluating the responses you get from suppliers is to create a scorecard system. Take the list of criteria established by the project team and give each point a weighted score. For instance, a competitive price quote might be worth 10 points. The scoring system allows the team to compare multiple vendors to see which one is best suited for this project looking beyond just budget considerations into things like project understanding and compliance history.

Research and development and manufacturing often take the forefront in project development strategies, so when it comes time to pick commercial suppliers like marketing companies, mistakes are made. A little forethought can eliminate errors and improve the front end of project management.

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