Tim Roberts’ career in the pharmaceutical industry had humble beginnings, with his first job in the industry as a Production Operative working on the factory floor of Convatec, a Bristol Myers Squibb subsidiary. As PCI Pharma’s Vice President for Global Sales of Clinical Services, he now heads up a multi-million-dollar global Sales Enterprise that supports the launch of life-changing therapies. We talked to Tim about how digitalisation will help these therapies get to market faster. 


How did you progress from the factory floor to the board room?

My career in the pharmaceutical sector started at 18. It was my job to stick on labels and package up products; I even signed up to clean the warehouse on the weekends for a bit of extra cash. It was on the production line that I had my first lightbulb moment: that I could help implement a new workflow to improve quality and efficiency.

I then had various roles in distribution and logistics, project management, and eventually sales. Working in different areas of the business helped me to better understand the challenges customers face across the various touch points in setting up clinical trials. I still draw on this experience every day.


How does PCI support the development of new therapies?

Developing a new therapy is incredibly complex and can take several years and cost millions of dollars. PCI provides a range of supply chain services, such as drug manufacturing, product packaging, and clinical trial planning to support the pharmaceutical process.

Every year, we play a key role in the commercial launch of more than 50 new therapies. We’re currently supporting around 30 COVID-19 clinical trials for new tests, vaccines, and treatments with our supply chain solutions. 

In fact, clinical trial services is the fastest-growing division at the company, as more and more companies look to bring innovative treatments to market.  We’re investing heavily in technologies – particularly digital processes and technologies – that support this business growth.

I still get emotional when a customer shares a patient testimonial about how their lives have been improved by a new therapy that we’ve helped to bring to market. Our continued focus is on being the bridge between life-changing therapies and patients.


Tell us about PCI’s digitalisation roadmap

Our digital transformation strategy is focused around customers experiences, digital processes and agile I.T.  Driving this strategy is our belief that clients and ultimately patients, will be better served through technology and digital advancements.  We’re investing in new digital processes, platforms, tools and people to transform how we collaborate with our colleagues, customers, and suppliers.

We’re already working on being able to cut the time it takes to create clinical trial proposals from five days to 30 minutes using an app built on the Salesforce Platform. This helps us to onboard new customers faster and start critical clinical trials earlier. We’ve also created an online community for our vendors, which means we can make faster and smarter procurement choices and engage with twice as many suppliers when going out to tender.


How did you ensure Salesforce could support your digital goals?

We wanted to be more flexible with our data share ability, so it could be utilised to support different systems, processes, and teams in the future. We worked with Salesforce partner, MintCRM, to map out the different workflows involved and the algorithms we would need to enable the right level of automation and integration. It took us just three days to scope out the architecture and three months to build the platform.


What’s next on the digital radar?

PCI is blazing a trail in digitalisation in the pharmaceutical industry with things like real-time supply-chain information, supplier communities and smart packaging to machine learning and virtual audits of our facilities. We are now a year into a three-year corporate digital transformation strategy that is already differentiating PCI and providing real and measurable returns.

Next, we’re launching a ground-breaking digital customer platform, which will provide real-time visibility of supply chain information and enable closer collaboration with our teams. This will eventually be integrated with Salesforce to provide even richer insights to our customers about their projects. 

We also want to leverage Salesforce to track the hundreds of different molecules and compounds that move through our different business areas as part of customer projects. This will enable us to forecast resource requirements in real time –not just for the next six months but for the next six years. The ability to track individual molecules and compounds will also unlock other insights, allowing us to look into the future and identify operational efficiencies and market trends, and track customer success rates.


What advice would you give to other Trailblazers?

It’s important to always think connected and build unlimited. Focus on key business problems and opportunities that can be solved and achieved. When we started designing our Salesforce architecture, we wanted to make sure everything was interconnected like a web. And we have seen the fruits of our efforts: the architecture we created in 2015 has hardly changed and now supports 25 sites around the world.

With Salesforce, you can build anything; the only limitation is your imagination. 

Surrounding yourself with a talented and diverse group of people is also crucial as it helps you innovate and dream bigger. It’s been so rewarding watching my team grow with our use of Salesforce – we’ve all learnt a lot from each other.

By digitalising its core processes, PCI will be able to support more clinical trials for more customers, particularly now with the booming global pharmaceutical market and the increase in demand and activity on the clinical trials side due to COVID-19. Discover how PCI’s digital strategy has increased our efficiency, agility, and visibility here.