Tanzania, like GlaxoSmithKline, learns delivery tricks from Coke

While Western donors could get HIV drugs delivered to African countries overnight, it often took a month to get them delivered to the patients. Some figured if Coca-Cola can manage to get its soft drinks into the hands of people in even the most remote areas, then maybe there was something to be learned from the soft drink maker. They have learned, including lessons that could benefit Big Pharma as it makes its way into developing countries with lots of promise and little infrastructure.

Coke, along with consultant Accenture, teamed up to share logistics expertise with the Medical Stores Department (MSD) in Tanzania, The Daily Beast reports. Out of the two-year partnership has come a program that has cut delivery times from 30 days to 5 and gotten HIV drugs to 80% of those who seek them, a more than 50% improvement.

The company determined upfront that because of the large variety of drugs to be delivered and the need for many to be refrigerated, it couldn't just truck them into isolated villages itself. Instead it shared expertise in logistics and software, mapping out health facilities and creating a stock-management system. The MSD no longer delivers to 500 warehouses but delivers directly to healthcare facilities where local managers know exactly what they need, just like Coke does with point-of-sale delivery. It wasn't just a software trick, however, the new system had to account for weather and limited infrastructure.

Actually, some in Big Pharma already are looking to so-called Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies like Coca-Cola. Earlier this year, CFO Simon Dingemans said GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) had squeezed 10 days, and costs, out of its supply chain process by making improvements in its IT systems, manufacturing layout and making use of FMCG practices. 

Creating a single end-to-end supply chain, "much like you would find in any of the major FMCG companies around the world" allows the company to drive the speed of response, drive the costs lower and particularly to drive cash and the working capital out of the process, he told analysts.

- read The Daily Beast's story

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