The evolution of Central Laboratory planning and forecasting to enable more efficient study delivery

25 April 2022

Fostering trust with customers starts with delivering study materials on time, underscoring the importance of planning and forecasting processes to meet current demands. While the pandemic highlighted the need to adjust approaches and address the industry’s supply chain disruptions, it also brought forth enhanced planning and forecasting methods at Labcorp.

This article discusses how the Central Laboratory Services team at Labcorp Drug Development worked to create new processes—not only in creating custom kits, but also across lab testing, data management and project management—to increase the quality of service and support on-time delivery for drug development sponsors.

Preparing and responding to challenges

Forecasting for supply and demand has always been a normal part of running the central laboratory, but an unprecedented demand for custom kits coupled with manufacturing shortages led to new innovations in how Labcorp approaches Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning (SIOP).

SIOP, a process used by many companies, estimates current and upcoming demand in particular intervals. With SIOP, the Labcorp team reviews industry information, market dynamics and potential changes in the clinical trial landscape to determine if they have the right resources, equipment and capacity to fulfill customer demands. With this comprehensive information, the team works to proactively mitigate potential risks across the business.

Extending forecasting timelines

With pandemic-induced disruptions, the Central Lab team found that they needed to quickly change their model to meet or exceed pre-pandemic levels of delivery success. Just as global supply chains now have extended timelines, the Central Lab team has now added a longer time horizon into its planning process to better handle surges for custom kits.

The team has also increased capacity, both on the kit building side and within testing and operations, to better absorb spikes in demand. Within the SIOP process, they worked to optimize collaborations and enable greater transparency between teams, which helps improve delivery to customers.

Increasing technology investments

On the forecasting side, the Labcorp team has also invested in technology to enhance its forecasting ability. They now build out their forecasts using an advanced algorithm to help predict demand—at both a kit level and a component level. This investment in analytics has extended forecasting abilities to reach 12 months and beyond. These forecasts are then incorporated into materials requirement planning systems, leading to more efficient processing of purchase orders and adjustments of inventory positions.

Incorporating the voice of the customer to achieve service excellence

At the heart of SIOP, all approaches incorporate “the voice of the customer,” taking into account sponsors’ experiences, expectations and needs while listening to feedback.

Executing on our commitment

By creating stronger collaborations and increasing visibility, the SIOP process is helping Labcorp improve customer service, understand potential risks and take appropriate actions to better meet sponsors’ needs in clinical trial delivery. Since implementation, on-time delivery of study startup kits has been more than 99%

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