A leading risk mitigation expert shares insights into the benefits of openly discussing risk
Caspar Robinson, Head of Risk Mitigation at Merck
The pandemic-driven focus on risk mitigation has highlighted supply chain challenges and potential areas for improvement that need to be addressed across the industry. In this SelectScience interview, we speak to Caspar Robinson, Risk Mitigation Program Lead at Merck. He shares his insights on how open communication and strategic partnerships can facilitate supply chain security and other risk factors such as quality and regulatory challenges, which in turn can protect consumers and enable good business practices.
In the past two years, supply chain channels across industries have been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussing the key challenges in the post-pandemic environment, Robinson explains that supply chain disruptions have led to unprecedented and unforeseen increases in demand for certain commodities. This situation has only been exacerbated by disruption to global and local transportation networks. Additionally, limited headcount and quarantine requirements imposed by COVID-19 have brought manufacturing and testing operations to a halt.
Refocusing the spotlight on risk reduction
Such challenges have warranted a review of factors such as supply chain reliability, quality of materials, regulatory support and sourcing best practices. Risk mitigation activities have come under the spotlight, with the industry questioning the assumptions and thinking that traditionally go into contingency planning.
As a result, the pandemic has prompted a refocus on maintaining business continuity, Robinson says. “Risk mitigation is the removal, reduction, or effective housing of elements that could disrupt a company’s operations or services.” The negative aspects of unaddressed risk can be very serious, he continues: “On the one hand, there can be harm for consumers or patients, as in the case of healthcare. But it can also contribute to reputational damage, adverse regulatory findings, business disruption, escalating costs, and even loss of business.” Therefore, it is critical that organizations conduct risk assessments and plan for risk mitigation while actively choosing to work with suppliers that contribute to can contribute to risk reduction.
Engage in proactive and open conversations
With differing regulatory standards across industries, the lens from which risk mitigation is viewed could be different, Robinson explains. “In highly regulated sectors like healthcare, there is already an embedded expectation that an active supplier management program is in place that covers risk mitigation. This may not be the case for less regulated or unregulated sectors,” he explains. Still, the focus across industries is to ensure business operations remain robust and reliable. With these common goals in mind, risk reduction should be a standard part of good business practice for any industry.
“Within the three main categories – supply chain, quality and regulation – many concrete actions can be taken to reduce and manage risk. However, a common theme underlying all risk mitigation efforts is proactive and regular communication between the customer and the supplier,” explains Robinson.
“There can always be certain aspects of a business that are out of our control, such as a global shortage of certain commodities at a given point in time,” Robinson clarifies. Therefore, the key is to identify alternative solutions to addressable supply chain issues, with a focus on improving quality and supply chain reliability while maintaining business consistency. An open and structured discussion about risks enables the adoption of new, effective solutions.
Facilitate risk mitigation through strategic partnerships
“To meet the challenges our trading partners typically face, we work to gain a thorough understanding of their current and future needs,” shares Robinson. As a raw materials manufacturer and service provider with a global presence, Merck engages in active communication in order to build a collaborative partnership.
As evidence of its willingness to invest in risk mitigation, the Merck team is entering into strategic partnerships, with the support of respective leadership teams on both sides. “We have found that cross-functional stakeholder support enables both organizations to work together to address risk from initial product development through final manufacturing,” continues Robinson. “This way of working empowers both teams to think about risk and how best to address it in a holistic way throughout the commercialization process.”
These multi-stakeholder discussions will lead to productive conversations that allow a range of perspectives and diverse needs to be brought to the fore, Robinson notes. Highlighting functional requirements, identifying current pain points, and gaining clarity on where future business goals lie are key to getting the conversation going on risk mitigation efforts. “As a manufacturer and service provider, we always appreciate a face-to-face meeting because it allows us to go into the details, which ultimately proves valuable in tailoring a solution to our customers’ needs. In advance of these discussions, we have created many useful online educational resources to help customers understand potential solutions,” says Robinson.
Merck’s goal as a manufacturer and service provider is to reduce unnecessary challenges – including unaddressed risks – for its customers. “Our goal is to enable our customers to focus on the core aspects of their business without having to worry about hurdles. We are here to pave their way to success,” concludes Robinson.