SAP Application Management Case Study
Banner Pharmacaps Unifies Systems for Quality (Cont'd)
With outsourced system management I grow the business model, respond to customers and focus on giving them what they want, when or occasionally even before they know they want it.”
Bill Bissinger, Chief Information Officer, Banner Pharmacaps
About Banner Pharmacaps
Banner Pharmacaps Facts
Merge, control and maintain complex FDA-compliant data systems with minimal internal resource requirements
SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application hosted and managed by AT&T
Unified system provides high availability, quality control, data integrity and security while freeing IT staff to focus on new business requirements and service expansion
Global pharmaceutical research and manufacturing
Operates four state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities worldwide
Banner Pharmacaps is a leading global drug delivery company specializing in gelatin-based products and technologies. Banner’s innovations improve the absorption of a drug by the body, mask unpleasant tastes and odors, and are a consumer-preferred dosage form. The company develops, produces and supplies prescription and over-the-counter products as well as nutritional supplements. Banner creates proprietary products for its own portfolio and partners with other pharmaceutical companies to design softgel drug delivery solutions.
Banner’s business operations range from research and development to supply chain activities. Success depends upon access to accurate product information, efficient processes and quality control. As part of the pharmaceutical industry, Banner’s products, systems, and IT processes are closely monitored and must meet rigorous FDA standards. However, the company’s growth through acquisitions and mergers meant Banner’s legacy IT infrastructure was disconnected and it was difficult to manage compliance. The pieced-together systems lacked the redundancy, product visibility and data security needed to ensure consistent quality control.
Banner unified its disparate IT systems with SAP enterprise management software for increased product visibility, system control and productivity. After searching extensively to find a company capable of FDA Part 11 compliance, Banner chose AT&T to host and manage its SAP application. With robust data centers and expert staff from AT&T, Banner gains data availability, security and a dedicated team. Freed from the tasks of daily system maintenance, the company’s IT staff can focus on expanding its services worldwide.
Banner develops and uses distinctive soft gelatin technologies to encapsulate prescription and OTC drugs and nutritional supplements. “The development and manufacture of soft gelatin products is a highly-specialized and technical niche market,” said Bill Bissinger, CIO. Banner distinguishes itself by developing unique proprietary products such as Soflet® Gelcaps and LiquiSoft™, chewable liquid filled softgels.
Even with the learning curve, we did not miss a single shipment. We are actually producing more, faster than ever before."
Bill Bissinger, Chief Information Officer, Banner Pharmacaps
Banner’s gelatin-based technologies can enhance the absorption of drugs and improve patient compliance by making them easier to swallow or masking unpleasant tastes. Its products manage complex interactions with the human body, including how and when the drug takes effect. “In some cases we want that to be a very fast release and in other cases we want that to be a timed release,” explained Bissinger. “We can build properties into the gelatin shell and fill that allow those things to happen.”
Banner’s high-quality products are made under tightly regulated processes to ensure safety and efficacy are provided to a global client base of pharmaceutical and consumer health product companies. The firm’s services include new product research and development, production, sales, stocking and shipping. Headquartered on a state-of-the-art, 250,000-square-foot campus in High Point, N.C., Banner operates four manufacturing sites worldwide, including Mexico, Canada, and the Netherlands.
Disconnected Systems, Difficult Compliance
Banner Pharmacaps was founded in 1994 through the merger of four different companies. “We ended with four different band-aided ‘MRP’ solution sets, different processes and different business models,” said Bissinger. These disparate systems challenged Banner’s complex operations and management of information.
Banner’s products are overseen by the FDA and other national governmental regulatory agencies that ensure product quality and safety. As part of its industry regulation, the FDA requires strict compliance of pharmaceutical IT systems regulated under 21 CFR Part 11. From compound development and testing to inventory control and shipping, Banner’s IT systems manage material data for every step of product production and delivery. A disconnected system could result in unnecessary waste, inefficiency and errors in information.
Banner wanted to ensure its IT systems reflected the best practices of the pharma industry. “The original companies we started from were not necessarily pharmaceutical companies,” Bissinger explained. Even after Banner’s IT department updated the legacy infrastructures to ensure basic regulatory compliance, Banner was still left with four different business systems. Access to product information was limited by the infrastructure’s lack of integration and disparate data.
Banner needed a unified approach that would allow the company to leverage its resources and grow globally. “We were looking for a system that would have the strength to provide us multinational and global capabilities as well as complete compliance capability and pharmaceutical industry best practice processes,” said Bissinger.
Feeling the Effects
Banner decided to unify its IT systems with SAP ERP and business management software, building a Global Blueprint and then implementing the solution for its U.S. presence first. “The system manages finance and costing, order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, quality management and plan-to-stock, including inventory management, warehouse management, planning and materials management,” Bissinger said.
The company chose to outsource the hosting and operations management of its SAP application, enabling IT to focus on its core business. “Banner Pharmacaps is in pharmaceutical business, not building and running data centers,” said Bissinger. “It's not a core competency and we don’t want it as a core competency.” By outsourcing hosting and management, Banner’s IT staff saves the repetitive time and energy otherwise required for the system’s daily upkeep.
Any solution company that works with Banner must also comply with FDA regulations. Banner conducted a thorough Request for Proposal process and chose AT&T to host its SAP application. “AT&T had the willingness to step up and do what was necessary to get to the level of compliance and activity that are required in the Pharmaceutical industry,” said Bissinger. For Banner, this was key.
Playing with the Right Team
The AT&T dedicated team works closely with Banner’s staff. “As CIO of a pharmaceutical company my choices are to either build everything we need, try to contract bits and pieces or, better yet, build partnerships with vendors where they become an extension of my own staff and services,” said Bissinger. “That partnering relationship has to be there and it has to be strong, otherwise it will not succeed.” Banner’s IT department troubleshoots system problems directly with the AT&T support team which has solid expertise in SAP.
AT&T hosts Banner applications in world-class data centers in Annapolis, Maryland and Denver, Colorado to provide back-ups, security and protection. Located thousands of miles apart, the dual data centers support the company’s business continuity. “It gave us a lot of comfort in that there is built-in redundancy. There is very little risk that an earthquake, tornado or any other disaster will impact both locations,” said Bissinger. Data is backed up every few hours between the two locations, ensuring Banner will never lose more than one hour of data updates.
SAP unifies Banner’s data systems, providing inter-departmental information access and visibility of product throughout the cycle of development, production, sales and shipping. Banner is now able to communicate more efficiently and accurately with customers about order status. “The customer relations group has been thrilled,” said Bissinger. “They used to make dozens of internal inquiries to try to tell a customer how much of what is where in the manufacturing process, now they just look in the system and there is their answer.”
Banner streamlined its processes, incorporating the new SAP software into previously manual operations. Changes in routine can be frustrating, but the benefits of the new application took effect immediately. “Even with the learning curve, we did not miss a single shipment,” said Bissinger. “We are actually producing more, faster than ever before.”
SAP helps Banner increase production, while maintaining consistency of product and FDA compliance. “We have complete stock locating capability in the warehouse and within the quality environment,” said Bissinger. “You can scan any material and it will tell you quality status, usability and retest dates. Before this information had to be looked up and relabeled continuously.”
System control means quality control. “When Banner began its SAP implementation, we decided to blueprint a single global instance,’” Bissinger explained. After Banner successfully developed a secure, compliant, unified IT infrastructure for its U.S. operations, it expanded that infrastructure to its Canadian location as well as to R&D.
The SAP application is able to incorporate location differences, adapting to meet the needs of a global enterprise. AT&T works alongside Banner’s IT staff to identify the most effective methods for system expansion, allowing Banner to plan for further integration of the Netherlands and Mexico facilities.
More recently, the company has implemented SAP’s Business Warehouse/Business Intelligence solution and added a Sandbox environment at AT&T. “We have built a standalone DR environment at AT&T as well so that we don’t need to interrupt our Quality environment for disaster recovery testing,” said Bissinger.
By utilizing its relationship with AT&T, Banner can concentrate on business-critical service operations. “With outsourced system management I can grow the systems business model, respond to customers and focus on giving them what they want, when or occasionally even before they know they want it,” Bissinger said.
With its SAP implementation in place, Banner is now free to ask, “where do we really want to go, and what do we really want to do,” said Bissinger. With its IT foundation in place, ready for expansion, Banner is prepared for the future.