Bristol-Myers Squibb's Supply Chain Guru, Ivy Tsonis, Featured in Top Industry Publication, Australia's Best

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Australia's Best Magazine in an award-winning series of publications published by Bean Media Group in Sydney. In their latest offering to the industry, Bristol-Myers Squibb were featured in Australia' Best Manufacturing.

Bristol-Myers Squibb has been included in the illustrious publicaion, 'Australia's Best Manufacturing', which was distributed industry-wide in July 2008. In the article, Australia's Best talks to Ivy Tsonis, Procurement & Supply Manager, about Bristol-Myers Squibb's relations with their suppliers. Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company with a mission to extend and enhance human life.

Bristol-Myers Squibb focuses its pharmaceutical research and development and medicines business on disease areas where there are significant unmet needs for new and better treatments. These disease areas include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, psychiatric disorders, hepatitis and rheumatoid arthritis. In Australia, the company is among the top 10 research-based pharmaceutical companies in terms of domestic sales and manufacturing.

With its headquarters in Noble Park on the outskirts of Melbourne, Victoria, Bristol-Myers Squibb operates three divisions in Australia: Pharmaceuticals, Technical Operations and ConvaTec. The Pharmaceuticals division, which is responsible for getting the company's medicines to tens-of-thousands of Australians every year, is based in Noble Park, Victoria, and is one of 30 in the global Bristol-Myers Squibb manufacturing network.

In Australia, Bristol-Myers Squibb operates a predominantly solid dose form pharmaceutical plant, geared for flexible batch production runs and rapid turnaround. It is one of a handful of sites in Australia with both TGA and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration. Manufacturing activities focus on formulation and packaging (i.e. secondary manufacturing).

The Australian manufacturing facility is currently the company's major finishing site in the Asia Pacific region for both local and export supply.

Within the Bristol-Myers Squibb global manufacturing network, the Australian facility is considered to be the specialist in short-run manufacturing, bottling and blister packing technology. The facility's short run/fast line change capacity enables production of both large volume and niche products.

The company employs about 170 people in its Australian manufacturing facility and a significant number of the major products sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb in Australia are manufactured and/or packaged at this site. About 62% of local production is for the Australian market, with the remainder exported to Europe, South America, Asia Pacific and North America (excluding the US).

When asked what role suppliers play in Bristol-Myers Squibb's success, Ivy replied without hesitation, "A big one." "Suppliers play a huge role in the company's success and with these relationships honesty and transparency are very important. There's no room for my way or no way in a partnership. You need to work with your suppliers and in turn they will support you and help you to grow. The relationship is also a mutually beneficial one as they want to see you grow, as they will grow with you," explains Ivy.

As with all partnerships, relations between a Customer and their supplier must be a two-way street at all times. "If I am constantly saying to my suppliers 'no, no', then when I contact them for assistance why wouldn't they say 'no,no,' to me in return? If you are closed to them, then why wouldn't they be to you?" reiterates Ivy.

"The suppliers are the experts in their particular field - they know how the industry is moving. As a Procurement Manager I don't know where new technology is going - I rely on feedback from my suppliers. We don't know it all. I can't profess to know every facet about how to manufacture a material- I rely on the supplier's specialist knowledge. They keep us informed about the market place. You really do need to have a one-on-one relationship and openly communicate with suppliers for it to work."

As Ivy explains, strategic affiliations achieve more when each side of the supply chain respect each other's needs - and as a result they are usually stronger for it.

Ivy believes one of the key elements in building a strategic partnership is to set things out clearly from step one. "Firstly I build a portfolio of all key suppliers and put together an up-to- date supply agreement. It's important for contractual agreements to be clear cut," says Ivy. "At Bristol-Myers Squibb I call this my 'Procurement Bible' and it keeps us and the suppliers honest. If both parties are informed and there are issues internally then we can sort through it. This means there's no major disruption to the business and limits time wasting. Transparency keeps the level of communication open between the two parties."

Another factor in positive strategic relationships for Bristol-Myers Squibb is loyalty. "People are always going to offer you competitive prices in an effort to secure your business. I believe that if you have the relationship with your Supplier they need to know that there is competition out there and be open with them about what's being offered."

"Supply chain has been recognised more over recent years as being of vital importance to all Industries - predominantly in the FMCG world where your margins are tighter. It's important because the supply chain isn't just about negations and your stock. It's about delivering your product, making sure the quality is there. It's about the whole package. It needs to be effective to give the message to other stakeholders. We're all working as a team - internally and externally."

"Margins are getting tighter and there's a lot of competition and I think that's what our Industry is experiencing as we are clearly competing with foreign markets. We need to be effective to stand out. We need to show the rest of the world, yes, we are here and Australia is moving with the times. We are now competing with generics and Asian markets, so we have to be effective and know where we are minimising straight off. Going for the lowest price isn't effective when it comes to supply chain management - you have to be smart. You cannot become complacent."

Ivy Tsonis is very passionate about her job and the solid link Bristol-Myers Squibb maintains with its suppliers. "All our suppliers are great. Without them I wouldn't be sitting here today. The biggest message when it comes to supplier relations is transparency and just saying it how it is. You need to stick to your word. It all goes back to how you manage people. Suppliers need to see that you're being proactive - not reactive."

Bristol-Myers Squibb form a number of stable partnerships with preferred suppliers, in particular with AMR Hewitts. AMR Hewitts Print Packaging maintains high quality from pre-press to the finished product, utilising some of the most state-of-the-art technology and processes available in the packaging marketplace.

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CHRIS DUTTON
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