#113: Emer Cunningham, VP Internal Medicine Global Supply Chain at Pfizer

#113: Emer Cunningham, VP Internal Medicine Global Supply Chain at Pfizer Featured Image

Emer has +20 years of experience in the pharma industry across manufacturing, engineering, operational excellence, and supply chain. Her experience in operational excellence saw her gain extensive experience in value stream improvement of global products, project coaching, training delivery, and support for lean transformation. Furthermore, in product portfolio management she was responsible for strategic supply chain design and identified and executed cross-functional, strategic projects.

She has been with Pfizer for over 20 years in various roles. And in her current role for close to 2.5 years as Vice President Internal Medicine Global Supply Chain.

Listen to the full discussion here:

  • Stream by clicking here.
  • Download as an MP3 here.



Connect with the Guest:

Emer Cunningham: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • Her own career from a chemical engineer to lean and ops excellence and now to the world of supply chain
  • Examples of how Pfizer manages their Internal Medicine division, with 400 products and 9000 unique SKUs
  • What keeps Emer up at night
  • What skills are most needed
  • Best career advice that she received (it does link to stop the overthinking)

Show notes:

  • [00:46] First and foremost, I wanted to start with yourself and maybe a little bit about your story and your career. Maybe tell us a little bit about that.
  • [02:22] When you start to look at efficiencies and you try to link manufacturing in one site to the next, you start to see what the supply chain looks like.
  • [04:08] What are you currently doing in terms of vaccines?  
  • [06:04] I like how your organization is structured, it’s kind of like the link bridging commercial people and the people that actually make the product. So tell us a little bit about the structure of Pfizer. 
  • [07:30] What we’re trying to do is make sure that we have translators in the middle that are sitting and understands margin, market trends, what it really means for our products, and then turning around and explaining that to manufacturing. 
  • [09:32] When you reflect back and think back, what were some of the things that you had to pick up and maybe the light bulb moments in your career when you made the shift into Europe?
  • [10:21] The skill that I think we’ve had to learn over the years is that we can take all of the facts and figures and data that we as engineers and scientists would like to explain in detail, whereas in actual fact, all we really need to tell you is the bottom line.
  • [11:22] Let’s also talk about some examples and case studies of the things that you have been most proud of and lessons learned or challenges that you’ve done across Pfizer supply chain and with your team.
  • [13:22] When we communicate, we communicate as a commercial and supply chain together.
  • [14:15] If you think in retrospect,  what mattered most to get through to do this change management?
  • [16:02] What are the things that you look after in terms of retention and growth?
  • [16:55] I think it’s not necessarily an analysis, it is actually back to that very key question, who is the customer? And what are we delivering to them? And then you set the parameters by which you do your analysis because the lens will be different depending on who the customer is. 
  • [17:38] What’s keeping you up at night? I mean you have all these things that seem to be the new norm and there’s going to be a disruption often. So from where you sit, what’s on top of your mind?
  • [19:43] I don’t think any of us ever planned for a risk where 50% of a site population are unable to work. How do you then prioritize those circumstances? So how do we now design a risk mitigation plan and process that takes into account factors that we never imagined and that kind of keeps me up?
  • [23:32] We do have to standardize where we can and we do put a lot of emphasis on that. Because otherwise, I think you’ll spend a lot of time recreating the same process in multiple different places. So we standardize where we can and then where we can’t add, you have to use a combination of all the tools that are available to you. 
  • [24:14] How do you also keep abreast of all these technology changes and new things that come in?
  • [26:03] What I really want to see is if I increase volume and reduce the margin, what does that do to absorption?
  • [27:37] What do you see, as I guess, the superpowers that teams need to have? What are some of the key skills, whether it’s hard or soft, that supply chain teams need to stay relevant and on their toes?
  • [28:24] I think one of the pieces that we haven’t focused on enough and we do need to into the future is actually building supply chain professionals of the future.  
  • [29:49] A people leader is not necessarily the technical experts in their area but is actually the best person to lead a team and to get the best out of those team members. 
  • [31:03] When the technology fails and the processes are disrupted, if we have the right people, we can still support the business. But if you don’t have the people, the processes and the technology are not going to get your customer what they need.
  • [31:49] Reflecting back on your career, what were some of the most useful principles that you apply?

Quote from the Episode:

About the Host:

The host, Radu Palamariu is the co-author of “From Source to Sold – Stories of Leadership in Supply Chain”. He has been named one of the top 3 Global Supply Chain Influencers on LinkedIn and was featured in ForbesBloombergWEFBangkok Post, and MIT Supply Chain Talent magazine. Radu invites executives to share stories and perspectives around technology, logistics, e-commerce, supply chain, and manufacturing, and their views on how the future will look.

Alcott Global connects and upgrades the supply chain ecosystem by finding the right talent through executive search, developing talent through learning solutions, and meeting supply chain technology needs through a comprehensive crunch base marketplace.

The supply chain executive search has been our focus since the very beginning, offering recruitment services for top-tier supply chain roles at every level of the end-to-end supply chain: plan, source / procure, make, and deliver. Our consultants have years of experience in placing top talent, in North America, LATAM, Europe, the Middle East & Africa, and APAC, and besides speed, one of our biggest strengths is our network within the supply chain industry, and we capitalize on it to find the best solutions.

Through the years, we have grown as an organization and our offerings with it. One of our initiatives, the learning solutions- training and supply chain academy, is focused on transforming leadership- self-leadership, executive presence, influence capital, and business acumen. Through Supplify, we aim to match corporations with the top technology companies to solve their supply chain and logistics challenges with a focus on innovation and digital transformation.

We are in constant touch with the leaders in supply chain, inviting them to inspire the supply chain professionals in thought-provoking podcast episodes and events, and showcasing what is possible at the yearly Leaders in Supply Chain Awards.

Related Episodes:

#109: Andreu Marco, Global Supply Chain Executive

#110: Bruno Sidler Chief Operating Officer of Lonrho & Board Member at Bertschi, E2Log, Global Airlift

#111: Pilar Madrigal Director of Investment Advisory at Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE)




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