How Melinta Maintained Supply During COVID-19 Pandemic
“One challenge was that about 75% of our manufacturers are in Italy — a country that was hit very hard at the start of the pandemic.”
We believe all people who need our therapies should be able to get them, even during challenging times. We talked with Kelley Ford, Vice President of Technical Operations, Supply Chain and Quality, and Kirk Ridge, Director of Supply Chain, to find out how Melinta overcame the challenges of COVID-19 to provide uninterrupted supply of our products for patients in need
Take me back to when the pandemic first hit. What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?
Kelley: Our products are very important and it’s critical that they’re available for the patients and customers we serve. This is what drives us every day, and it certainly drove us to overcome challenges during the global pandemic.
One challenge was that about 75% of our manufacturers are in Italy — a country that was hit very hard at the start of the pandemic. Fortunately, we have developed very close and collaborative relationships with all of our manufacturing partners and this served us well during this crisis.
Kirk: That’s right, we were very comfortable reaching out to our manufacturing partners, especially our Italian partners, to ensure our supply requirements could still be achieved. We could work together through any and all challenges they were experiencing, which was anything from staffing issues to changing conditions on the ground.
Kelley: At the same time, we were working with our partners to understand their contingency plans…
Imagine a country that was nearly shut down, and we’re wondering, “Well, we need to manufacture and ship our product. Will personnel be available to manufacture product at the facilities? Will drivers be available to deliver product to the airport? Will we even be able to ship our products through air freight? And, how do we do all this while ensuring their employees stay safe?”
Kirk: We had to examine every aspect of the supply chain and plan for anything possible. This extensive strategy was key, as was a high degree of coordination, collaboration and understanding in order to implement it.
Kelley: It was absolutely strategy, collaboration and coordination that saw us through this. It was also the solid foundation we had in place “before” COVID — our processes as well as our strong relationships with our amazing manufacturing partners. That’s what enabled us to succeed!
How do you sustain strong relationships with manufacturing partners?
Kelley: Our work is very scientific and high-tech in nature, but maintaining personal relationships is so important in our business. Our supply, quality and technical teams are always working together to ensure we’re communicating effectively with our manufacturing partners.
Constant communication with a personal touch helps us sustain relationships and solve problems very quickly, even in times of crisis.
Kirk: Definitely. We’re a small and nimble company, so we’re able to be really flexible and responsive. At a moment’s notice we can be sitting down and solving problems with any of our trusted Melinta teammates — from Technical Operations to Finance. It was a company-wide effort.
During COVID, when we hit a challenge, we could pull different departments together very quickly to brainstorm the best way to get things done. We’d have a decision within a day — not weeks.
Kelley: One great example of this was when one of our packaging partners asked if they could delay our product packaging for a month. At the time, they had a massive increase in demand for a product that had a COVID indication. Our team analyzed the situation and we determined the delay wouldn’t impact our supply needs, so we were able to be flexible.
Kirk: It’s always some level of give and take with our manufacturing partners, and we give when we can. That flexibility creates really strong and collaborative relationships.
Were there any other surprises that came up as you were working through the pandemic?
Kelley: Yes! There was a disruption in the competitive market and we were able to ramp up our production of one of our products in order to meet the anticipated change in demand.
I think that COVID illustrates how important it is to always maintain flexibility in your supply chain.
Kirk Ridge, Director of Supply Chain
Kirk: Right, we always have to be focused on our own supply requirements, but we also need to be cognizant of overall supply happenings in the market in case we need to react quickly in response. And, in this situation, we did. We worked with our manufacturing partner to put the focus on that product and accelerate the supply.
I think this achievement is about knowing which levers to pull and understanding where to focus your efforts.
How do you think COVID will impact the way we think about supply chains in the future?
Kirk: I think that COVID illustrates how important it is to always maintain flexibility in your supply chain. You need a strategic structure in place, but part of that strategy also needs to be understanding where you can pivot. That way you’re prepared for anything.
Kelley: We certainly feel like we’re prepared for anything at this point. I’d also say that a crisis like this shows just how much you need excellent partners throughout the supply chain.
We’re so proud that our manufacturing partners have been successful through this global pandemic. They took all precautions to keep their staff safe and were able to continue to manufacture. In this way, our patients and customers were never without the supply of our critical products.
As we think about supply chains for the future, there will always be innovation in strategy, process and technology. But the mainstay for success is excellent partners and strong relationships with them.