Forecasting a bright future full of booming growth, how could Sopharma Trading serve its customers with a huge variety of products efficiently and effectively?
Joining forces with IBM, Sopharma Trading deployed a solution from SAP that enables pharmacies, hospitals and more to order goods quickly and easily via their preferred channel.
Introducesprocess maturity and standardization to Sopharma Trading’s booming business
Boostsreporting accuracy, driving smarter decision-making
Sharpensability to handle special orders for large chains and other future challenges
Business challenge story
Strong growth trajectory
Change is underway in the Bulgarian pharmaceutical industry. Ten years ago, the fragmented distribution market, which previously comprised numerous small companies, consolidated into few large enterprises. Now, the same process is occurring on the retail side, as thousands of small independent pharmacies are gradually joining up to form major chains. Already, between 60 and 70 percent of retail sales are made by 20 percent of outlets.
In its ten-year existence Sopharma Trading has diversified its business model. Previously a wholesaler of pharmaceuticals to hospital and pharmacy markets, the company now provides a wide range of healthcare services in diverse market segments such as turn-key solutions for hospitals, marketing and advertisement offerings, and more. Broadening its horizons, the company has also expanded into neighboring Serbia.
Capitalizing on these fresh commercial opportunities has yielded healthy returns for Sopharma Trading, demonstrated by the company’s double-digit year-on-year growth. The company wanted to continue its impressive growth trajectory, and looked for the best way to enact its regional expansion strategy.
Denitsa Georgieva, Director of Business and Technological Solutions at Sopharma Trading, begins: “For years, we had managed core business processes—such as taking customer orders—using a heavily customized legacy system from a local vendor. Over the last decade, we had expanded and fine-tuned the platform to suit new business requirements as our company evolved and grew. However, it was becoming increasingly time-consuming and technologically difficult to adapt our custom solution to seize fresh commercial opportunities—such as launching new promotions, pricing models, managing complex rebates and compensations, and more. Because our legacy system was unable to support some processes, we had to compromise on the types of deals we offered, or create complex manual workarounds. To continue our expansion and manage increased transaction volumes efficiently, we needed to move to a more stable and scalable platform that could support our business requirements now and for years to come.”
Finding the right fit
After speaking with the leading market vendors and integration partners, Sopharma Trading decided to deploy SAP® Hybris® B2B and engage IBM® Services to help guide the implementation.
“We selected SAP Hybris because of the standard process and best practices brought by the core ERP, the richness of the portfolio and its ability to cover our extensive business needs,” explains Denitsa Georgieva. “In addition, SAP is the platform-of-choice in our industry.
“Selecting SAP alone was not going to solve our business challenges—we also needed to find the right partner to adapt the solution to suit our business. We decided to work with IBM because the consultants demonstrated a robust understanding of our business processes. In addition, the IBM team invested significant effort in understanding our requirements, and preparing us for the challenges of the journey we faced.”
The IBM consultants worked hand-in-hand with Sopharma Trading’s in-house team, proactively helping to adapt the company’s non-standard processes to fit the new approach. By keeping customization and bespoke developments to a minimum, Sopharma Trading can reduce the time and cost of subsequent upgrades and changes to its SAP systems.
Denitsa Georgieva remarks: “IBM brought in team leads from all functional workstreams so that our business process owners could work interactively with them, identifying areas for improvement in our processes and ways of working, and learning about best practices. One of my colleagues later told me that he had never met consultants with such refined expertise as those from IBM.
“Our experience of working with IBM was excellent. Even during exceptionally busy periods and when we were up against tough deadlines, the IBM team was highly professional—preparing thoroughly for each stage, providing useful feedback, and delivering responses and inputs on time. There weren’t just one or two stars on the team—everyone worked to a very high standard.
“When we engaged IBM, our business was developing and expanding at very high speed. While continuing to move at this demanding pace, we had to change to an entirely different class of solution—all without disruption to business users and commercial operations. With IBM, we replaced a wealth of functionality from our previous system in the new SAP platform very smoothly, so we hit the ground running.”
Excellent customer service across all channels
Today, the SAP Hybris implemented by IBM helps Sopharma Trading to serve diverse customers—such as pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers—with a vast array of products and services efficiently and effectively. Customers can choose to place orders via their preferred channel, such as by phone or online.
“Some customers choose to purchase goods from us online,” comments Denitsa Georgieva. “Our previous online store provided a sub-optimal customer experience. For example, multi-buy discounts were not applied until the final stage of the buying process, so customers may have thought they were being overcharged, or that the website was faulty. Our new online site based on SAP Hybris gives customers an up-to-date purchasing experience. We can run complex promotions, and customers see accurate prices throughout the purchasing process, helping us tempt price-conscious customers to buy more goods from us.”
Additionally, Sopharma Trading has sharpened its ability to manage special orders, which are large orders placed by central procurement departments of large chains—for example, major pharmacy chains, with products to be delivered to stores across the country. As large chains become more common, the number of special orders is set to increase in future, and Sopharma Trading foresees a rise in the value of special orders received after working with IBM to deploy SAP Hybris.
By working with IBM to adopt SAP ERP, Sopharma Trading has enforced robust master data management, helping to boost the accuracy of its reporting and provide a better foundation for business decision-making. Furthermore, the clear track record of transactions in SAP acts as a robust audit trail—a useful factor in the heavily regulated pharmaceuticals industry.
Critically, relying on SAP Hybris will make it easier for Sopharma Trading to launch new products, services and channels in response to customers’ evolving needs.
Denitsa Georgieva elaborates: “We are confident that the SAP solutions will be able to support our planned growth and international expansion long into the future. If fresh commercial opportunities emerge and we want to further diversify our offering, we will be able to do so quickly—retaining excellent agility.
“In switching to SAP, we have also reduced business risk by avoiding heavy reliance on the small team of developers behind our legacy systems.”
The drivers who deliver goods to Sopharma Trading’s customers are also responsible for a range of other tasks, such as collecting payments, delivering paperwork and picking up goods for returns or refunds. Each job is different, so to help drivers manage their tasks, Sopharma Trading worked with IBM to replace its legacy mobile app with one connected to back-end SAP systems. With data flowing in from SAP, the mobile app guides drivers through each customer visit—showing which goods and paperwork should be delivered, any items to pick up, and the payment to be collected—and allows them to tick off the items as they complete each task.
Denitsa Georgieva concludes: “The SAP solutions delivered by IBM are helping us boost agility while keeping our core processes stable, thus sharpening our competitive edge. With the solution in place, we feel well prepared to take on whatever challenges the future brings.”
Sopharma Trading is a leading wholesale healthcare provider on the Bulgarian market. The company offers a portfolio of over 10,000 products, including exclusive brands, medicines, vitamins, food supplements, cosmetics, medical devices and hospital equipment. To deliver goods from its warehouses to over 3,000 customers nationwide, Sopharma Trading operates a fleet of over 130 vehicles. The company employs more than 750 people and generates annual revenues of BGN 613 million (EUR 313 million).
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