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Generic Drug Group Creating Warning System for Shortages

By APICS Staff | 11 | 24 | December 20, 2011

Makers of generic drugs will collaborate with distributors, wholesalers, and other partners to create an advance-warning system that would signal when certain medicines are in short supply, reports Reuters. The system, based in the private sector, will augment an existing warning tool used by US health officials, says Ralph Neas, head of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPA), an industry trade group.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), early notification enables companies to respond to imminent shortages by ramping up production to boost supplies. These warnings prevented 137 shortages in two years. But the FDA does not have the authority to force a manufacturer to report supply disruptions unless it is the sole producer and the drug saves lives. Most drug shortages do not fall into this category.

"[The FDA doesn't] have the analytical background with respect to the private sector," Neas says. This statement echoes a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, which says the "FDA's ability to respond to drug shortages is ... constrained by its lack of systematic data, limited resources, and an absence of performance measures." An FDA representative says the agency has just learned of the GPA's proposal and will evaluate it carefully.

Investors Eying Hardware, Not Software, Start-Ups

Bucking past trends that favored software over hardware, many investors and venture capitalists are banking heavily on new companies offering devices such as cameras and clocks, the Wall Street Journal reports. Whereas in recent years, entrepreneurs shunned capital-intensive equipment to back warehouse-free websites, entrepreneurs now are backing physical devices that take advantage of rapidly improving software and hardware, such as robots, health monitors, and personal electronics.

The Journal points to start-ups such as camera maker Lytro and a company called Square, which makes a tool for accepting credit card payments on a smartphone. Combined, the companies raised more than $135 million this year in venture capital. "I never thought I would invest in a camera company," venture capitalist Marc Andreessen says. He adds that small companies now have access to off-the-shelf components, which makes products easier and cheaper to build. These products also contain sophisticated software that is "not easily clonable."

But some experts say there still are high barriers to producing hardware and new companies underestimate challenges such as inventory forecasting. Companies just starting out run into traps such as shipping too soon and lacking the experience to find the best suppliers, says Tony Fadell, formerly an executive at Apple. Meanwhile, some new hardware manufacturers look to third-party support to manage their supply chains.

Survey: 85 Percent See Manufacturing Coming Back to States

According to a survey conducted by executive recruiting firm Cook Associates Executive Search, 85 percent of manufacturing executives see the possibility of some areas of manufacturing operations returning to the United States. Overseas costs were the major factor for 37 percent of respondents, with 19 percent citing logistics and 36 percent citing other reasons, including economic and political issues, quality and safety concerns, patriotism, and overseas skills shortages for technical manufacturing processes.

Respondents identified the primary forms of manufacturing returning to domestic shores as low-volume, high-precision, high-mix operations; automated manufacturing; and products that require technology improvements or innovation. About 3,000 manufacturing executives were polled, mostly in small to midsize companies in the United States.

Lack of Smash Holiday Toy Leaving Retailers Unhappy

The Christmas holiday is rapidly approaching, and this year the toy industry has no smash hit, reports the New York Times. As a result, many retailers are being careful not to repeat the mistakes of last year. "As retailers look at consumer confidence numbers, they are skeptical about consumers' willingness to spend this holiday season, and they are trying to avoid getting caught with too much inventory," says Josh Green, chief executive of supply chain data company Panjiva.

According to a survey by UBS and America's Research Group, more than 50 percent of parents feel there is no must-have toy this year, and more than 33 percent say it is hard to find toys and gifts because nothing is new. It appears that retailers have cut down on toy purchases overall, as imports of toys in August and September dropped by 9.8 percent compared with last year, according to an analysis by Panjiva. "Couple that with the increase in shipments of the classics, and it's a sign that regardless of the talk, when retailers are actually placing orders, they're doing so with a very classic mind-set," Green says. 

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