Teva Nederland is part of one of the largest pharmaceutical groups in the world. It has been using X4Connect for years to great satisfaction for its local automated messaging. X4Connect is the service for standardised, electronic document exchange within ECS International. A big advantage of this is that, besides being convenient, it also reduces the number of steps (and therefore the margin of error) in the shipping process. Teva can rest assured that invoices and orders will always arrive safely at the brokers, thereby ensuring that they can provide patients with medication on time.
According to Teva, they manage "the largest medicine cabinet in the world". Its content is not delivered directly to end users, but to wholesalers such as Brocacef and retailers such as Kruidvat. Hospitals and pharmacies also purchase medicines from Teva through wholesalers.
IT project manager Sander Schreuder states that Teva annually exchanges more than 7,000 messages with external parties using automation. This is done according to the uniform standards of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). Orders, receipts, invoices, packing slips and so on, are all made in different applications, with their own file formats. EDI ensures that systems speak the same language, as it were, so that they communicate seamlessly with each other. According to Schreuder's colleague Mark Visser (IT applications and project manager) it is "extremely difficult" to set up the connections that are necessary for EDI. "It really is a nightmare. Not only organisationally, but technically too. You run into all kinds of security problems, with different file formats, you name it. You then need to ensure that messages are received and processed correctly. That's not all that easy when systems speak a different language."
Setting up connections, integrating systems and transforming data into the same language is, according to Visser, "work for a real specialist". He is happy to leave this to ECS International, which has a lot of experience with this. "Our core business is to produce and sell medicines, not to connect systems." Schreuder draws a comparison with the telecom world. "If you want to call, you pick up the phone. But to actually get someone on the line, you need a telephone company. They provide the connections." According to him, ECS is also such a connecting party, but one that also interprets. "We talk to ECS through our systems, in our own language. ECS then establishes the connection with our customers and suppliers and ensures that they receive our messages in the language of their choice."
The platform that ECS uses to send, receive and "translate" messages is X4Connect, a managed service that enables reliable and secure data exchange in any format. This provides users with a future-proof solution, because new partners can always be connected to it. Visser mentions that the big advantage of X4Connect is that it enables him to search for and follow messages sent via a portal. "You can also easily make changes or additions there, like by creating a field in which you can enter a prefix." An example of such a prefix is "Van" or "Van der" for a surname.
Being able to track the status of messages is of added value, especially in pharmacy, says Schreuder. "In our industry, it is extremely important that message traffic is well documented. When taking medication, you must be sure that the correct substance has been sent, in the correct quantity. That information really must be correct, it is literally of vital importance." Without X4Connect, according to Schreuder, there would be a great chance that something would go wrong with a shipment. "Then you are dependent on faxes and paper receipts. These have to be rendered suitable for electronic transmission by hand. This is not only time-consuming and inefficient, but also prone to errors. By removing as many of these steps from the process as possible, by automating, you reduce the margin of error. When sending manually, your message may be ignored or you may encounter errors. It is impossible to keep an eye on all of that." The IT managers cite another important reason for not wanting to return to a situation without EDI: large business partners such as Kruidvat only want to exchange documents through this channel. "For example, they require shipping confirmations to be sent in this way," explains Visser.
The two expect that Teva will increasingly use EDI in the future, as more hospitals and pharmacies may start to connect. After all, there are more and more who are discovering the benefits of this fast, efficient and secure way of exchanging data. "We can really recommend this solution to everyone," says Visser. "It is simply great to work with. It is not without reason that Teva works with similar platforms in other regions, such as Scandinavia." According to Visser, the collaboration with ECS International mainly offers practical benefits. "We can leave everything to them. As mentioned, connecting a new partner is extremely difficult, but they arrange it quickly. Of course, it depends on the priority of the new connection, but you can start sending automated messages within a few hours. Otherwise, it is only a matter of a few days. They also offer 24/7 support. Lines are short at ECS, so if there is anything, they solve it quickly."
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