Business Process and transformation

Boosting Pharma Logistics Fulfillment Center Efficiency

Enter Centric: Using Three Objectives to Make Infinite Improvements

To begin this transformation, our Chicago team worked with Pharma Logistics to document future state processes and requirements, but most importantly, envision a future state that allowed for business agility and innovation. This included thorough initial scoping sessions, legacy data review, detailed capability prioritization, risk assessments, high-level stakeholder analysis and then the development of an execution plan.

The deliverables we developed during this stage allowed us to gather the high-level understanding needed to provide a detailed and strategic plan considering risks, complexity and size (resources, time and investment). With this information, we moved into implementation, working side-by-side with Pharma Logistics to reduce manual and duplicative work across their environment.

We leveraged the depth of experience across the entire organization and worked together with this client to build and deploy a custom solution in a complex, faced-paced environment through the following key objectives:

  1. Create a sustainable data architecture
  2. Implement NetSuite to support core business functions
  3. Develop custom applications to streamline current business processes.

Objective 1: Creating a Sustainable Data Architecture

Implementing data governance is complex but requires business buy-in and sponsorship to succeed, making it difficult to do. We recognized data governance does best when the business drives it and focuses on providing subject matter expertise, coaching and guidance while allowing the Pharma Logistics’ internal team to own implementation.

From there, our team designed a flexible data architecture to support our client’s business processes and operations by allowing them to respond quickly to new changes, discover data issues before publishing, and update analytics without disrupting operations. This architecture established the blueprint for how the business and technology teams would communicate and created the ground rules for how systems would integrate.

Objective 2: Implementing NetSuite to Support Core Business Functions

To jumpstart the project, our team leveraged the industry’s most common NetSuite configurations as a baseline. We then implemented NetSuite ERP, CRM, lot-numbered inventory, and order management modules, establishing NetSuite as the record system for all customer transactions. On top of that, we implemented NetSuite for procurement and updated preexisting NetSuite financial and accounting processes.

We also created custom solutions where Pharma Logistics identified process areas ripe for waste reduction, including a file repository process to meet critical industry compliance standards for processing-controlled pharmaceuticals.

Now, they can consolidate jobs automatically within NetSuite at the time of invoicing instead of on the processing floor, helping to expedite timelines and reduce errors on the processing floor.

Objective 3: Developing Custom Applications to Streamline Current Business Processes

Our team also built new, custom applications for Pharma Logistics using an iterative development methodology that leverages frequent user experience and design sessions to quickly capture requirements, provide visual mock-ups and enable easy hand-offs to our development team in India. This approach allowed the client to give input early and often throughout the process, gauge overall project progress, and shift priorities to the most critical tasks during the development cycle.

These custom applications improved the efficiency of field service operations through better user experience, the ability to operate offline without internet connectivity, and more seamless data transfers to the ERP system. The custom apps also improved the efficiency of fulfillment center operations by reducing processing steps and increasing inventory accuracy.

The Results: Improving Processes in Both Technology and Business


Our high-functioning, technical project team worked with Pharma Logistics to embrace technology as a strategic driver and competitive advantage for their business.

Working across teams, our data team implemented an enterprise data model and lightweight data governance process to centralize datasets into a system of record, yielding improved data integrity and a single version of the truth. This implementation provided Pharma Logistics with real-time visibility into operational performance.

The combined teams transformed Pharma Logistics’ NetSuite environment from an accounting-only application to a full suite of ERP, CRM, and additional modules without taking the business offline for a single day. The transparency of financials eliminated waste and enabled the business to simplify data and application architecture, allowing the decommissioning of legacy applications.

Our custom application development team delivered two new applications that provided a strong foundation for strategic business growth, modernized their client’s technology stack, and increased system stability and availability. In the client’s fulfillment center, one application increased overall fulfillment center product intake of nearly six percent, with individual processor throughput almost doubling. However, this success created an unforeseen side effect.

Because Pharma Logistics focuses solely on reverse distribution, processing return good authorizations (RGAs) – a form that facilitates returns of expired or defective products – is a key part of their business model. These new applications’ increased drug return processing capabilities created a backlog of manufacturer RGAs. Transformation results exceeded the number of RGA request approvals that staff could process daily by three and half times, expanding their RGA backlog to nearly 100,000 forms.

To help Pharma Logistics truly transform for future growth, we needed to look beyond opportunities that merely automated the mundane. The solution? We leveraged their investment in the fulfillment center – a Centric-developed custom application for fulfillment staff to process returns – and enabled the app to serve a bot. We refactored the application’s return process and automated it to make it bot-friendly, eliminating three of six human interactions within the fulfillment center.

The new automated pipeline handles a daily volume over 200 percent greater than what it could before and no longer requires dedicating staff to this necessary but tedious procedure. The prior RGA process required more than 10 minutes of labor to complete – now, it only takes 40 seconds.

Proactively changing their fulfillment center software to work with a bot allowed Pharma Logistics and its staff to operate on a new level, but this was only a start. They subsequently transitioned repetitious work to the bot, allowing staff to provide greater value by focusing on more complex problems without the burden of manually intensive tasks.

Business Results

More items processed per month
Fulfillment center processor throughput increase
Minutes of human effort per RGA automated


With the help of Centric, Pharma Logistics successfully transformed its business to achieve greater efficiency and higher output. Some of the positive results of this project include:

  • The new fulfillment center sorting function replaced three functions in the prior state and now requires 12 full-time employees (FTEs), whereas the previous state used 33 FTEs.
  • The new technology quickly captures product information, allowing the final disposition of about 70 percent of products to be identified at first touch compared to multiple product touches in prior state.
  • This new system allowed Pharma Logistics to immediately process an order, obtain electronic return authorization requests, and ship returns the same day. The previous state required a minimum of 24 hours because multiple systems needed to share data off-hours. This allows 67 percent of RGAs to bypass handling and storage in the RGA racking.
  • The increased visibility into operational performance gives fulfillment center managers the power to quickly address operations bottlenecks, and employees can flex between functions easier.
  • The business can now identify each item back to the customer and order using serial identification of products, allowing for easier auditing.

There is always pressure on employees to work as quickly and effectively as possible. But when employees are inundated every day with forms and spreadsheets they must review, analyze and use to process customer requests, the longer it takes for them to address a customer’s needs.

The success of this project shows how businesses can find greater efficiency when people and technology work in harmony. Organizations looking to embark on technology-based transformations should challenge themselves to look beyond improving their processes from simply a tech perspective and consider how they can improve their people’s day-to-day jobs as well.

Want to read more about this project? Check out our article in The Chicago Business Journal.

Matthew Causing Pharma Logistics

Best-In-Class Technology Platform

Centric was a terrific partner who helped us design and implement a best-in-class technology platform that will allow us to serve our current and future customers better. The Centric team integrated well with our in-house project team ensuring our project remained on schedule and budget. We couldn’t be happier with our platform, which is a testament to Centric’s role in this successful project.

Matthew Clausing, Chief Operating Officer, Pharma Logistics

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