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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

What can be more enriching than meeting with customers, sponsors, and vendors to learn about current market dynamics, and to understand their challenges and pain points around clinical supply management? 

This is why the SAP team took the opportunity to attend CTS Europe in Barcelona, where we delved into discussions on emerging industry trends. In this blog post, we will share the key takeaways from the conference and shed light on the exciting developments shaping the future of clinical supply in general and SAP Intelligent Clinical Supply Management in particular.


One topic that was prominently discussed across all workstreams was sustainability. With clinical trials emitting 100 million tons of carbon per year, this topic deserves closer attention. Also, the conference's organizers attached so much importance to sustainability that they dedicated the opening keynote to it, which would have been unimaginable some years ago. In his keynote, Novartis’ Development Environmental Sustainability Lead revealed various steps in the study life cycle where a reduction of carbon emissions can be achieved and how sustainability also needs to be balanced with supply urgency. Highlighted factors included application of decentralized trial elements, reduction of on-site monitoring visits, re-usable shipping boxes and avoidance of frontloading of the sites.  

Another fundamental factor, however, is to reduce inventory overage and wastage in clinical supply chains which can be achieved by an improved clinical planning considering actual enrollment and dispensing figures for clinical supplies replenishment. Here, advanced clinical trial supply management software can help to simulate multiple planning scenarios and to forecast the actual demand more accurately at the sites. And of course, this allows for the combination of sustainability goals with financial savings as a significant outcome.  

Another session highlighted the impact of intelligently organizing supply pooling. In combination with JIT labeling to apply the latest available shelf-life, this approach can help to reduce overage by up to 40% (e.g., by reducing the amount of drug product needed, by reducing the number of shipments, ...).  

A smart combination of the different approaches described in the various sessions might allow to save millions of tons of CO2, while still being able to conduct cutting edge clinical research to help patients overcome disease and achieve a better quality of life. 


Given the increasingly complex technology landscape and cost pressure being present from all sides, the need for collaboration and flexibility across the clinical supply chain was emphasized multiple times. With clinical supply management being a puzzle of different software solutions and tools, it becomes clear that breaking down data silos by integrating all different parts of the puzzle is crucial. And the trend of outsourcing several parts of the clinical supply chain to Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisations (CDMOs), such as manufacturing, packaging, labeling and distribution, adds even more to the need for a smooth collaboration and greater visibility between all parties.  

This also became obvious in many discussions at our booth with both vendors and sponsors where we recognized a huge need for standardized processes and interfaces to break down data silos and to enable a seamless integration of the different software systems that are used in the clinical supply ecosystem. One take home message for us, therefore, was to continue and to even strengthen our current strategy of building strong partnerships within the ecosystem to drive the adoption of harmonized processes and data/messaging standards.  

Panel discussion with DHL, Roche, and Novartis on Clinical Supply Chain OrchestrationPanel discussion with DHL, Roche, and Novartis on Clinical Supply Chain Orchestration

A definite highlight of the conference was our participation in a panel discussion, with our consortium members DHL, Roche, and Novartis, on how to enable clinical supply chain orchestration globally. Everybody in this round agreed that a true spirit of collaboration between sponsors and vendors is key and that we need to move from custom one-to-one connections to a business network projecting the complex clinical supply ecosystem. Successful network orchestration will allow more flexibility for integrations and eventually add value across global supply chains.  

Artificial Intelligence  

What would a conference be without addressing the topic of artificial intelligence in these times? Of course, integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in clinical trial supply management was also a prevailing topic at CTS Europe which was addressed in several sessions. And it was great to see how well this topic connects to the other mentioned trends in clinical supply – collaboration and sustainability. Only an orchestrated collaboration and better integration will lead to better data quality and smooth data flows, which can serve as a good foundation for AI use cases. And to come full circle, attendees were encouraged to leverage AI to make informed decisions in their demand planning and forecasting to predict inventory overage and expected wastage which will lead to a more sustainable clinical supply chain.

The clinical supply chain for sure has a long way to go to become fully digital, agile, and resilient, however, we are optimistic that we are on the right path led by a common purpose to make patient lives better! 

Meet us in person

In case you missed us at CTS Europe, the next chance to meet us is already waiting: From April 21st to April 24th 2024, the SAP Intelligent Clinical Supply Management team is awaiting you at GCSG US. Besides from meeting us at our booth you can already look forward to our Vendor Showcase on Clinical Process Transformation with Cloud & Artificial Intelligence (Day 4, 1 pm). Let’s connect and shape the future together!