Planning of outsourced operations in pharmaceutical supply chains

Y. Boulaksil

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 1 (Research TU/e / Graduation TU/e)

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In this dissertation, we focus on the planning and control of supply chains where part of the supply chain is outsourced to a contract manufacturer(s). Supply Chain Management deals with the integration of business processes from end-customers through original suppliers that provide products, services and information that add value for customers (Cooper et al., 1997). In a narrow sense, a supply chain can be ‘owned’ by one large company with several sites, often located in different countries. Planning and coordinating the materials and information flows within such a worldwide operating company can be a challenging task. However, the decision making is easier than in case more companies are involved in a supply chain, since the sites are part of one organization with one board and it is likely that the decision makers have full access to information needed for the supply chain planning. Outsourcing is an ‘act of moving some of a firm’s internal activities and decision responsibilities to outside providers’ (Chase et al., 2004) and it has been studied extensively in the literature.Outsourcing is developing in many industries, but in this dissertation, we focus on outsourcing in the pharmaceutical industry, where outsourced supply chain structures are rapidly developing. Recent studies show that the global pharmaceutical outsourcing market has doubled from 2001 to 2007 and it is expected to further increase in the upcoming years. In the pharmaceutical industry, the outsourcing relationship is typically long-term and customers often require high service levels. Due to high setup costs, production is conducted in fixed large batch sizes and campaign sizes. The cumulative lead time within the supply chain is more than one year, whereas the customer lead time is about two months. In this industry, production activities are outsourced for three main reasons. First, intellectual property legislation requires outsourcing the production activities to a contract manufacturer that owns the patent for specific technologies that are needed to perform the production activities. Second, expensive technologies or tight (internal) capacity restrictions also result in outsourcing. Third, to limit the supply uncertainty, companies outsource to have an external source producing the same product next to an internal source. This dissertation deals with the planning and control of outsourced supply chains, which are supply chains where part of the supply chain is outsourced to a contract manufacturer. Most supply chain operations planning models from the literature assume that the supply chain is planned at some level of aggregation and that further coordination is conducted at a more detailed level by lower planning levels. These concepts implicitly assume that the lower planning level and the operations are conducted within the same company with full information availability and full control over the operations, which is not case when part of the supply chain is outsourced. Hence, the objective of this dissertation is to obtain insights into the implications of outsourcing on the supply chain planning models. First, we review the literature on outsourcing research and we find that little is known on the operational planning decisions in an outsourced supply chain and on the implications of outsourcing on the operations planning. The literature on outsourcing at the operational level uses outsourcing purely as a secondary source to control performances such as the delivery reliability. Consequently, we discuss two case studies that we conducted into outsourced supply chains to understand the implications of outsourcing on the supply chain operations planning function, where the contract manufacturer is the only source of supply. The main implications of the planning and control of outsourced supply chains can be summarized in three categories: limited information transparency, limited control over the detailed planning and priorities at the contract manufacturer, and contractual obligations. Below, we discuss these in more detail. In order to decide on the release of materials and resources in a supply chain, it is required that the decision maker is able to frequently monitor the status of the supply chain. In an outsourced supply chain, the outsourcer does not have access to all relevant information of the entire supply chain, especially not to the available capacity in each period, also because the contract manufacturer serves a number of different (and sometimes even competing) outsourcers on the same production line. Moreover, the contract manufacturer plans and controls its part of the supply chain based on rules and priorities that are unknown to the outsourcer. This results in facing an uncertain capacity allocation by the outsourcer. Another implication is that the contract manufacturer requires by contract to reserve capacity slots prior to ordering. These reservations are subject to an acceptation decision, which means that part of the reservation quantity can be rejected. The accepted reservation quantity bounds the order quantity that follows later on. Therefore, another main insight from the case study is that in an outsourcing relationship, the order process consists of different (hierarchically connected) decisions in time. In the ordering process, the uncertain capacity allocation of the contract manufacturer should be incorporated. Hence, the order release mechanism requires a richer and more developed communication and ordering pattern than commonly assumed in practice. In a subsequent study, we build on this insight and we design three different order release mechanisms to investigate to what extent a more complicated order release function improves (or deteriorates) the performance of the supply chain operations planning models. The order release mechanisms differ in the number of decision levels and they incorporate the probabilistic behaviour of the contract manufacturer. Based on a simulation study, we show that a more advanced order release strategy that captures the characteristics of outsourcing performs significantly better than a simple order release strategy that is commonly used in practice. We also discuss the conditions for a successful implementation of the more advanced order release strategy. In another study, we study the case where the contract manufacturer is a second source next to an internal manufacturing source for the same product and where the outsourcer faces inaccurate demand forecasts. The two sources are constraining the supply quantities in different ways. Its own manufacturing source is more rigid, cheaper and tightly capacitated, whereas the contract manufacturer is more flexible but more expensive. In that study, we compare the performance of two different allocation strategies by a simulation study in which we solve the model in a rolling horizon setting. The results show that the rigid allocation strategy (the cheaper source supplies each period a constant quantity) performs substantially better than the dynamic allocation strategy (each period the allocation quantities are dynamic) if the parameters are chosen properly. In another study, we study the outsourcer’s problem of deciding on the optimal reservation quantity under capacity uncertainty, i.e., without knowing what part of the reservation will be accepted. In that study, we develop a stochastic dynamic programming model for the problem and we characterize the optimal reservation and order policies. We conduct a numerical study where we also consider the case where the capacity allocation is dependent on the demand distribution. For that case, we show the structure of the optimal policies based on the numerical study. Further, the numerical results reveal several interesting managerial insights, such as that the optimal reservation policy is little sensitive to the uncertainty of the capacity allocation from the contract manufacturer. In that case, the optimal reservation quantities hardly increase, but the optimal policy suggests increasing the utilization of the allocated capacity. We also study the outsourced supply chain from the contract manufacturer’s perspective. In that study, we consider the case where the contract manufacturer serves a number of outsourcers with different levels of uncertainty. The contract manufacturer faces the question of how to allocate the contractual capacity flexibility in an optimal way. More precisely, we focus on the contract manufacturer’s decision to make the acceptation decision under uncertainty. The more the contract manufacturer accepts from an outsourcer, the more risk is taken by the contract manufacturer, as the outsourcer might not fully utilize the accepted reservation quantity. However, we assume that the outsourcer is willing to pay an additional amount to compensate the contract manufacturer for that risk. We develop a mixed-integer programming model, which optimizes the allocation of capacity flexibility by maximizing the expected profit. Offering more flexibility to the more risky outsourcer generates higher revenue, but also increases the penalty costs. The allocated capacity flexibilities are input (parameters) to the lower decision level, where the operational planning decisions are made and demands are observed. The simulation results reveal interesting managerial insights, such that the more uncertain outsourcer gets at least the same capacity flexibility allocated as the less uncertain outsourcer. Moreover, we have seen that when the acceptation decision is made, priority is given to the less uncertain outsourcer, because that information is the most valuable. However, we see the opposite effect when orders are placed, namely that priority is given to the more uncertain outsourcer, i.e., the most paying outsourcer, as no uncertainty is involved anymore. These insights are helpful for managers of contract manufacturers when having contract negotiations with the outsourcers. We believe that the results and insights that we obtained in the various research studies of this dissertation can contribute to solving the broader real-life problems related to the planning and control of outsourced supply chains. We also discuss potential managerial implications of our findings explicitly addressing the management decisions that may be affected by using the insights from our studies. Considering the operational implications of outsourcing when taking the strategic outsourcing decision will lead to a different and a better estimate of the transaction costs and probably to a different strategic outsourcing decision. Based on our research, we think that the transaction cost estimate will be higher if the outsourcer and the contract manufacturer do not agree on operational issues, such as the multi-level order release mechanism. From a tactical point of view, the outsourcer may include the options of postponement and cancellation in the contract, even if the contract manufacturer would charge little extra for these options. The results show that the benefits of including these options are substantial. Moreover, we showed that controlling a contract manufacturer operationally in the same way as an internal manufacturing source leads to a nervous ordering behaviour with a lot of changes and a lot of panicky communication between the outsourcer and the contract manufacturer. Combining the insights from different studies, one can also conclude that including little reservation cost is beneficial to both parties; it leads to a win-win situation. The outsourcer with a high level of demand uncertainty secures sufficient capacity allocation from the contract manufacturer and avoids more expensive penalty costs. For the outsourcer with less demand uncertainty, it is wise to set the contract such that the reservation costs are subtracted from the total paid amount. Moreover, this outsourcer may gain competitive advantage if his competitors operate in the same market by securing sufficient capacity allocation (by paying little reservation costs). For the contract manufacturer, including reservation cost is also beneficial, as it leads to a better match between the outsourcer’s reservation and ordering behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences
  • Fransoo, Jan C., Promotor
  • de Kok, A.G. (Ton), Promotor
  • Tan, Tarkan, Copromotor
Award date10 Feb 2010
Place of PublicationEindhoven
Print ISBNs978-90-386-2134-0
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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