The Friday Report: September 21st, 2018

Quick wrap up of a few hot topic newsworthy stories in the supply chain logistics industry

Puerto Rico’s Pharmaceutical Industry Reacts to Impact of Hurricane Maria

Before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico had a thriving pharmaceutical industry.  That was then, and this is now.  Before the hurricane devastated the island, Amgen had their largest manufacturing worldwide in Juncos, in the shadow of the El Yunque rain forest.  This is an area that is typically protected from storms.  During the hurricane, the headcount was purposely reduced from the usual 2,700 to the bare minimum.  Only those people who were necessary to run critical manufacturing lines were there.  Unfortunately, with such an enormous facility, more than 100 people were present if a few key buildings.

Still running production at the time of the storm, Amgen had to keep functioning to maintain the complicated, delicate production lines which house vats of microbial cells which produce critical antibody drugs such as Epogen needed to treat anemia.  Microbial cells are living and require food and energy for survival.  Fragile, the microbial cells have specific temperature requirements.  If those production lines were lost, it would cost Amgen millions and impact the global drug supply chain.

More than 50 pharmaceutical manufacturing sites are situated in Puerto Rico.

Some drug products are made only in Puerto Rico and the impact of that loss could be damaging.  A year after Hurricane Maria, drug companies have studied how their teams worked together to prevent disaster and shared lessons learned.

Read about the lessons learned and how drug companies are planning to mitigate future storms here.

Amazon Promotes Small Business with “Storefronts”

“Storefronts”, a new portal designed to celebrate and promote small to midsize merchants was recently launched by popular online retailer Amazon.  The new offering is focused on 20,000 of the approximately 300,000 small merchants currently selling on Amazon.

Storefronts highlights different merchants through video profiles and showcases some of the items that the merchants sells on Amazon. Although marketing campaigns will be executed, they will not include links to home pages of their websites or physical stores.

Amazon designed Storefronts to encourage greater engagement by smaller merchants on the Amazon platform.

Accuracy in Natural Language Processing Essential to the Future of AI in Retail

As retail companies have begun to tap artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots to engage shoppers with brands, certain challenges have emerged.  Initially, chatbots did not have the capabilities for real natural language understanding/processing (NLU/P).   This is the learning technology which enables chatbots to understand, analyze and respond accurately and in a human-like way to people with whom they are engaging.  This has frustrated human consumers, businesses and influencers in the retail space.

Omnichannel capabilities have become a key competitive brand differentiator.  Having a poor initial engagement with a consumer discourages brand loyalty and continued experiences.  Recently, chatbots have improved. Today chatbots are able to accurately understand natural language text and speech, even nuanced language.  Chatbots help enable 24/7 customer service responses for routine questions in all major languages.

Learn more about the use of AI-powered chatbots here.

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