BSMA leadership COVID-19 response conversations: Stephen Volonte

April 17, 2020

Team BSMA

The Bio Supply Management Alliance was born for the need to create a worldwide community of operations and supply chain management leaders and professionals in the biotech, biopharma, and biomedical device industries.
​Stefano Volonte leads North America and LatAm commercial supply chain for Roche/Genentech. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he commented on three areas:

Supply chain resilience

By design, Roche/Genentech had already established dual/multiple locations for several, key products manufacturing, opting not to rely on just a single facility. This has proven to be a big advantage. Having the possibility to operate a truly global network provides us the possibility to leverage the capacity of back up sites as soon as one node would become saturated, or in a highly impacted area. Our supply was unhindered and our service level remains outstanding.

Demand volatility

The company is well responding to fluctuating prescription product demand from different hospitals. In the short term, we took advantage of our healthy stock along the entire supply, even looking at opportunities to advance orders for starting materials and other components. In one specific case, the company looked for establishing an end-to-end US-based backup supply, to quickly ramp up the supply and significantly increase the flexibility to cope with the demand surge.

Logistics constraints

Volonte admits the company was caught by surprise by the sudden flight bans and freight constraints, especially since 40% of its cold chain supply chain relied on commercial aviation. Roche/Genentech was forced to compete for cargo capacity, and to reshuffle in the short term. “Ultimately, we did not miss a beat,” Volonte reports. “No patient went without medicine. Even if the shipment was at the highest price, this was still the case.” The company utilizes 4PL logistics partners, which optimizes global transportation, and in the US established a 4PL for all the domestic shipments and export orders. “These people really lived up to our expectations,” said Volonte. “Technology like control tower tool really pays off in this case, providing real time visibility on all shipments and enabling prioritizing the most urgent ones.”

Roche/Genentech prides itself on extremely high service levels. That is why, at its Kentucky distribution center, for three weekends, staff were on site to send product that couldn’t wait for a Monday shipment.

Regarding working from home, Stefano thought it was “not traumatic because Genentech has a flexible approach to schedule and accommodates individual preferences. We went from working from home one or two days a week to working from home all week.”

Pre-COVID-19, on a typical day ~15,000 people came and went on Genentech’s South San Francisco campus daily. Now, only about 1,200 individuals with critical roles work there. Stefano described less dense campus as a big advantage: it protects the health of the people who needs to be onsite and keeps the most essential operations running, to continue delivering life-saving medicines to patients.

Employees working onsite go through health screening and practice social distancing. The company provides free lunches to onsite staff and special measures/attention.

“I hope we can learn from each other [about COVID-19] and to stay connected. This is not just about one company but our entire industry. Everyone is looking at us to deliver the solutions to this humanitarian crisis”.

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