Going Global: 3 Things Pharma Procurement Pros Should Know

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The challenges facing global supply chain and procurement professionals in the pharmaceutical industry are substantial.

Each day, procurement executives have to come into work prepared to address one key question: How are my suppliers supporting our mission to deliver life-enhancing and lifesaving medicines and therapies to our global patients?

At a recent supplier conference focused on growing partnerships for improved performance, one global supply chain executive explained that they have to manage over 55,000 suppliers worldwide (with thousands more banging on the door to get in!) in support of their patient-centric mission.

Translation providers play an integral role in helping global pharmaceutical companies accomplish their mission of ensuring better health for all by:

  • Supporting the successful completion of global clinical trials in every corner of the world with quality translations of key documentation pieces
  • Helping to eliminate any chance of patient error by ensuring that use instructions and product inserts are clearly and accurately translated
  • Facilitating marketing messages that are both accurate (regulatory concerns) and impactful (messaging) in the target markets to get the word out on new medicines

With 18,000+ translation providers worldwide, here are 3 factors to bear in mind when selecting the right one:

1. Collaborate globally and deliver locally

With global pharma companies delivering products in over 150 countries and conducting clinical trials in dozens of them, your translation provider needs to be as global as you are—and fully able to work 24/7 around the globe.

Additionally, given the complexity of the supply chain and the drug development process, your translation provider should also be able to collaborate with your other suppliers such as CROs, marketing agencies, patient recruitment firms, and e-learning service providers. These suppliers are also distributed globally, each playing an integral role. So your translation provider should have the resources and scale to seamlessly integrate into these areas, offering additional collaboration for enhanced product delivery.

2. Mitigate risk with the right processes and resources

In the life sciences space, quality is paramount. In order to produce high quality translations, your translation provider must have alignment between processes and resources.

Processes need to be documented in a Quality Manual, and they should be audited by a third party for compliance. It’s one thing for a translation provider to declare compliance with certain quality standards (ISO and EN for example). It’s quite another to offer the proof provided by an external audit!

Resources start with Project Managers. Are they familiar with the demanding challenges of pharmaceutical work—cost, quality, turn time, and ever-changing project requirements? Are the Project Managers PMP-certified? That is, are they truly professional project managers? At the end of the day, translation is a professional service that requires professional project management. Your Project Manager should be your primary point of contact to help deliver your translations on time, within budget, and with the required quality levels.

Resources also encompass translators, editors, and proofreaders who actually work on the content. Does your translation provider have a documented and audited process in place for recruiting and managing linguists? Are they properly qualified through education, work experience, and translation expertise to deliver translations in your therapeutic area?

3. Innovate by combining technology and service

Quite commonly, the conversations between procurement and the translation provider revolve around cost cutting, and this typically means a review of ways to lower per-word rates over the contract cycle.

While translation providers have to be mindful of the hard costs associated with translation, they should also be innovative in finding solutions that bring together technology and service to lower the Total Cost of Ownership of translation services.

This could mean providing new technologies that improve workflows and decrease the amount of project management time that pharma companies spend trafficking content.

The translation provider should also seek to innovate with service lines that directly support the mission of bringing more life-enhancing medicines to more people at a faster rate. This could mean additional services to help accelerate regulatory approvals. Or, digital marketing operations that allow for better localized and more effective marketing.

Achieve your goals by choosing the right partner

Undoubtedly, procurement officers in global pharma companies face complex challenges:

  • Increased regulatory oversight
  • Distributed supply chain operations
  • An endless sea of suppliers offering to help
  • Increasingly global responsibility through mergers and acquisitions

However, procurement holds a strategic promise: ensure that patients receive what they need, when and where they need it.

By choosing a translation provider who is able to scale globally, mitigate risk, and collaborate strategically, you’re one step closer to achieving your mission.

>> To learn more about streamlining processes and resources for global success, read the new ebook, Centralization: How to Increase Efficiencies and Decrease Costs.

About the author

Headshot_JohnHerzig_Nov14John Herzig focuses on helping life science  companies streamline processes from content creation through publication. An expert in all aspects of language services, John’s 20-year industry career includes experience as a translator, interpreter (consecutive and simultaneous), language trainer, and sales executive.

His wide range of experience has led him to work and consult with several of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and medical-device companies across the Americas; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and the Asia-Pacific region (APAC).


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