Human factors: The pharmaceutical supply chain as a complex sociotechnical system

B Edwards, CA Gloor, F Toussaint, C Guan, Dominic Furniss
in International Journal for Quality in Health Care, Journal article


© 2020 Crown copyright 2020. Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated preexisting weaknesses in the global supply chain. Regional assessments by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Medicines Agency (EMA), and independent consultants, have demonstrated various contributory causal factors requiring changes in policy, relationships, and incentives within the dynamic and developing networks. Human factors and ergonomics (HFE) is an approach that encourages sociotechnical systems thinking to optimize the performance of systems that involve human activity. The global supply chain can be considered such a system. However, it has neither been systematically examined from this perspective. Methods: In 2015, the UK Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors established the Pharmaceutical Sector Group. This unique group is open to all who work in the pharmaceutical sector at any level and in any discipline who share the vision of a pharmaceutical system that places an understanding of HFE at the heart of improving the use of healthcare products throughout their life cycles including their supply chains. Results: For this complex system to work efficiently, it is paramount that we have effective coordination and integration between the different elements in the supply chain. HFE can give valuable insights and solutions for developing these complex social-technical systems effectively. Conclusion: By partnering with international groups such as Biophorum and Bio Supply Chain Management Alliance, we wish to stimulate discussion about how sociotechnical thinking about HFE may help develop better monitoring and investigative techniques to strengthen global supply chains.