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CMO Management: Paving the Path to Supply Chain Excellence

The global life sciences industry increasingly leverages the expertise of Contract Manufacturing Organizations (CMOs) to bridge gaps in their production capabilities. These third-party entities offer specialized manufacturing and development services, allowing companies to delegate parts or all their production needs. In this piece, we dive into why effective CMO management is critical to paving the path to supply chain excellence.

The Impact of CMOs 

The impact of CMOs on life sciences companies extends far beyond production lines. Their actions significantly shape a company’s financial health, growth trajectory, and ability to fulfill patient demand. In a virtual manufacturing environment, a company’s control over its supply chain is limited, making it heavily dependent on its CMO partners to execute supply chain plans and deliver high-quality products. It’s therefore critical for companies to manage their relationships with CMOs effectively, setting clear expectations and consistently evaluating their performance.  

Building successful partnerships with CMOs is not a one-size-fits-all process. It requires careful management, informed decisions, constant communication, well-defined performance measures, and a deep understanding of the production processes and regulatory environment. Companies must clearly understand their own needs and the capabilities of their CMOs for both parties to benefit. 

Challenges in a Virtual Manufacturing Supply Chain 

Supply chain management involves managing the flow of materials and components from suppliers to the CMOs and ensuring CMOs have the necessary resources to meet production demands. Managing a virtual manufacturing supply chain can bring significant challenges to balancing supply and demand. Order quantities, uncertain lead times, shelf-life restrictions, diluted focus, and diminished urgency lead to more supply chain variability and reduced inventory management control. As a result, life sciences companies experience higher than anticipated cost of goods sold (COGS) and spend more resources and efforts on managing the supply chain and reacting to the variability. For high-impact products, supply chain variability that leads to inventory stock-outs can be detrimental to patient health and will affect the organization’s reputation.  

Effective CMO Management

The following sections detail key aspects of effective CMO management to effectively to drive supply chain optimization. Understanding these areas can guide companies in maximizing the benefits derived from their partnerships with CMOs. 

Quality Management 

Ensuring the CMO adheres to strict quality control and assurance standards and maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements is non-negotiable. While most CMOs have rigorous protocols to conform to these standards, it doesn’t guarantee immunity from deviations. Hence, companies must delve deeper into understanding the operational intricacies of their CMOs.

Obtaining this level of understanding extends beyond site audits and familiarity with procedures: it requires careful assessment of a CMO’s demonstrated commitment to quality. The real challenge here, particularly for companies entering commercial product development, is to effectively gauge a CMO’s quality management capability. This assessment often involves evaluating available data, asking targeted questions about their process and controls, and seeking external reviews or certifications that vouch for the CMO’s adherence to quality standards. This evaluation also includes a thorough analysis of Quality Agreements. 

Quality Agreements delineate the roles and responsibilities of both parties in ensuring product quality and regulatory compliance. However, understanding these can be complex and requires experienced personnel who know what to look out for. This highlights the importance of having a team with the necessary knowledge and skills to interpret and implement these agreements, ensuring that the CMO’s quality standards align with the company’s expectations. 

Lead Time Analysis 

Effective supply chain planning is anchored on precise lead times. A comprehensive understanding of the CMO’s manufacturing processes, along with timelines for batch release and testing, can significantly refine lead time estimations. This entails a detailed process map that captures the entire journey, right from placing a purchase order to the delivery of the finished product. Engaging in discussions with the CMO about this process map not only allows for more accurate calculations of lead times but also paves the way for the establishment of Service Level Agreements (SLAs). These SLAs, which could be included in the Supply Agreements, set clear expectations about timeframes, thereby reducing uncertainties, and fostering a more collaborative, streamlined, and efficient supply chain. 

Moreover, an in-depth lead time analysis serves as a foundation for strategic inventory management. One highly effective strategy is managing a safety stock of raw materials to reduce both lead times and their variability. Additionally, for unfinished materials with extended production or procurement cycles, planners can adjust safety stock levels accordingly. This proactive approach bolsters supply chain agility and risk mitigation, ensuring operations remain fluid amidst unexpected challenges. 

Economic Order Quantities and Capacity Levels 

Not all CMOs explicitly outline batch/lot sizes or capacity restrictions in their Supply Agreements. These elements, however, play a pivotal role in a company’s ability to maintain a balanced supply-demand equation, a factor that becomes particularly critical during a product’s commercial launch phase when demand is typically escalating and variable. 

A thorough assessment of production validations and batch/lot requirements is essential to formulating a robust supply plan with the most optimal Economic Order Quantities (EOQ). By considering these factors, a company can minimize product wastage due to expiration and optimize its inventory management practices. This ultimately leads to increased operational efficiency and cost savings, contributing positively to the company’s bottom line. 

Performance Monitoring and Risk Management 

Collaborating with CMOs to develop lead time estimates, safety stock requirements, and production capacity creates the foundation for setting performance benchmarks. By keeping track of, documenting, and comparing actual results against these benchmarks, companies can gain valuable insight into performance trends, including on-time delivery, to identify potential areas for improvement. 

It’s equally important to continually assess Quality Management metrics such as deviation frequency and resolution response time, and batch release and testing lead times. Regular oversight of these metrics can help uncover any operational inefficiencies in the production process and highlight opportunities to enhance product quality. This vigilant approach to performance monitoring serves to ensure the overall integrity and reliability of the production process. 

These performance metrics provide objective measures to develop a risk profile and encourage companies to better understand the factors contributing to risks in their supply chain. Gaining this comprehensive understanding enables companies to shape their supply planning strategies and make calculated decisions on setting inventory targets and safety stock levels. 

By fostering transparency and enabling prompt corrective actions, this approach mitigates supply chain volatility, ensuring a smoother and more predictable production process. 

Leading with Data: Fostering Trust and Ensuring CMO Success 

To ensure effective collaboration, companies must deliver consistent, accurate, and timely data and information to their CMOs. When leading by example, companies can foster a cooperative environment where CMOs are more inclined to collaborate and meet expectations to achieve desired outcomes. It also enables CMOs to make well-informed decisions and plan their strategies and operations effectively. For instance, providing long-term forecasts beyond what’s expected allows CMOs sufficient time to evaluate their capacity to meet future growing demand. 

Enhancing Your Partnership with CMOs 

When it comes to managing CMO partnerships, the significance of communication is paramount and cannot be overlooked. Regularly connecting with your CMOs seems simple but can profoundly influence their commitment and attention to your needs as a customer. 

To effectively support the long-term sustainability of your CMO relationships, monthly to quarterly cadences with CMOs should be scheduled and prioritized. Regular interactions provide an opportunity to share insights, address challenges, and make data-driven decisions promptly. It strengthens accountability, facilitates proactive risk mitigation, and promotes continuous improvement across the supply chain.  

By developing and integrating these essential components, life sciences companies can enhance their partnerships with CMOs, paving the way for supply chain excellence. 

For more guidance on effective CMO management, or to learn more about our life sciences supply chain consulting services, reach out to us today. 

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Tags: Supply Chain Planning & Execution