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Distribution & Logistics Sourcing & Procurement

Allergan Promotes a Culture of Continuous Improvement Among Diverse Supply Chains


Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Allergan is supported by more than 5,000 colleagues in operations globally.

At Allergan, everything starts with the customers and ensuring their needs are fully understood throughout the organization. A global pharmaceutical leader in medical aesthetics, eye care, central nervous system and gastroenterology, Allergan’s goal is to be a leader in these four key therapeutic areas and offer its customers a broad suite of products to meet unmet medical needs.

“Innovation is really at the core of what we do, as a company as a whole, yet also in how we evolve with our customers and develop new pipeline products, which of course brings new technologies and capabilities,” Executive Vice President of Global Operations Wayne Swanton says. “We also continuously challenge ourselves to examine the way we do things in order to make them more efficient and effective.”

Allergan is committed to working with physicians, healthcare providers and patients to deliver innovative treatments that help people around the world live longer, healthier lives. The company is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, with colleagues and commercial operations in more than 100 countries.

The diversity of Allergan’s business and products translates into a diverse supply chain. “We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach, but tailor the supply chain to the uniqueness of those products and to the customers we support,” Swanton explains. “Located in more than 100 countries, taking around two million orders and shipping one million pallets and two million small boxes per year, we have a truly diverse supply chain across the globe.”

To achieve a successful supply chain and support the movement of products and information most effectively, Swanton says internal collaboration among research and development, operations and the commercial teams is key. “It’s important that we are all on the same page when we are defining strategy,” he adds. “That transparency ensures we have all the ideas and viewpoints on the table to optimize solutions.”

Seamless Operation

“Twenty years ago, we used the term ‘supply chain’ and I don’t think that term was really understood,” Swanton says. “Now it’s clear that the best operations are end-to-end supply chains that connect the many nodes to seamlessly support and deliver physical products and importantly, information. We provide innovation, visibility to products and data in a complex global supply chain that allows them to move more quickly and support the needs of our customers more effectively.”

Allergan is perhaps best known for Botox, which generates billions of dollars in sales. The fact that it’s a neurotoxin — one of the most toxic compounds known to man — presents some unique supply chain challenges. Security measures around Botox are vigorously enforced. For example, entry into and exiting Allergan’s laboratories is no easy feat. All activity in its laboratories is measured and monitored. Everything is under video surveillance and guards watch everything from a room filled with banks of screens.

Movement of the toxin is known only by a very small number of people, and it never leaves Allergan’s control. Once the extensive manufacturing process is complete, Botox is ready to be shipped to customers around the world, but security measures do not end there. One of the biggest threats to Botox is counterfeits, which is why Allergan implements numerous overt and covert measures to ensure patients have the authentic product, made with all of the extensive quality controls in place. In 2019, Allergan marked a significant milestone when its historical Botox production topped 100 million vials.

Successful Integrations

Allergan’s core brands are growing rapidly and the company has an exciting pipeline that is going to continue to fuel growth over the next five years. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have always been part of Allergan, and global operations has played a key role in the company’s strategic transformation, executing multiple successful integrations over the past five years.

“We are always evaluating external acquisitions that are strategic fits with our existing portfolio,” Swanton says. “We have an Open Science R&D model that taps into the ecosystem of innovation to identify new products to meet the needs of our customers and patients that we can then complete development and commercialize. This makes the environment within global operations also very dynamic and exciting.”

M&A has become a core competence of Allergan with $220 billion in deals over the past five years including pending deals, and Swanton says after the announcement of transaction is when the real work begins. “What is critical during those transactions is really to ensure customers don’t even notice,” he explains. “We view that as a key measure of success. It’s also important to open your mind to how you can do things differently and better as a company in terms of processes, systems and practices moving forward. I’m proud of what Allergan has done in how we approach all the M&A we have been part of, yes it presents challenges, but also lots of opportunities as you integrate companies and supply chains.”

“With each transaction completed, we have worked hard to maintain consistent product supply even while sales and the number of R&D projects in the pipeline increased. Trust me, that’s much easier said than done and it really makes Allergan very special considering that in most deals it’s easy for companies to actually lose focus and momentum,” Swanton added.

To successfully navigate integrations, Allergan prides itself on a strong culture of continuous improvement. It is always challenging the status quo to do things better. For example, each of its facilities hold short huddle meetings daily to determine which issues need to be escalated and resolved. These locations also hold Kaizen events to drive rapid solutions to pain points, and to ensure both transparency and everyone is on the same page.

“This operational excellence mindset has a financial benefit also, yielding more than $100 million in reduced costs over the last three years and the approach is very much in the DNA of our company,” Swanton says. “As a result, we have taken many capabilities that began in end-to-end supply chain and leveraged those across other functions, including commercial, human resources, finance and compliance, helping them remove pain points and improve efficiencies.”

“And while production volumes and complexity have increased significantly, I’m really proud that our team continues to earn kudos for our reduced environmental impact year after year, including the Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award for six consecutive years,” Swanton added.

Building a Legacy

Allergan is equally focused on securing an infrastructure for the future, with over $600 million in capital investments for operations over the last three years, doubling capacity in Ireland and France to meet the fast-growing global demand for its medical aesthetics products.   

“Technology development is also a key to our future. It’s everywhere, again with that goal of moving high quality products and data more rapidly through the supply chain. An example would be in our procurement group we recently launched a new supplier discovery engine that uses data analytics and artificial intelligence algorithms. This digital enhancement is helping us uncover within seconds what could have taken hours or days to do previously. We’re bidding things faster in order to drive value for the company across functions and estimate significant efficiencies from our best-in-class procurement organization in the years to come.”

To achieve what it has in the past five years, Allergan has had to build a culture from the ground up with contributions from colleagues in every part of the company.  Allergan’s legacy, Swanton says, comes back to culture. “What makes me most proud is our culture, which is pretty amazing,” he adds. “It’s open, non-bureaucratic and challenging in terms of how we can do things better. It’s energizing to be part of and becomes infectious.”

Its “Bold for Life” culture empowers approximately 17,000 colleagues to approach Allergan’s mission a little differently. The phrase inspires everyone at the company to build bridges, power ideas, act fast and drive results to do what is best for its customers and patients. “We are committed and connected. To our customers and their patients. To each other. To the world around us. Each of us has a vital role to play. Teamwork and partnership make us stronger. Better. Bolder.”

To build a world-class supply chain organization, Swanton says effort must be put into the culture a company wants to create. “I think when you really encourage colleagues to strive for more and do things differently, they have to be able to fail; and how we react as leaders says a lot about the culture,” he concludes. “When people flourish, you get more ideas, energy and results, but you also have a lot more fun along the way.”


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