Pioneering Innovation for Universal Access to Biologics – Univercells’ journey with RISE with SAP

Univercells is a Belgian biotech innovator transforming how biotech drugs are made so everyone, everywhere can get them. Univercells is composed of scientists and entrepreneurs creating transformative platforms for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, through technology, bio-process know-how and entrepreneurial spirit. Operating mainly from Belgium, the diverse team, spans over 50 nationalities and comprises more than 450 employees worldwide.

Nohad Laamim, the Chief Digital Officer of Univercells, shines a light on their successful transformation from a start-up to a scale-up with a robust foundation of cloud-based systems.

From challenges to innovation

Navigating the competitive health market posed some challenges for Univercells, particularly related to IT strategy and digital infrastructure. “Our primary objective is developing affordable products. From an IT and digital perspective, the focus lies on inventory optimisation, enhancing the efficiency of both human and manufacturing resources. The second goal, aimed at organic growth, requires IT to manage various affiliates globally. This includes scalable solutions to accommodate the increasing number of users and transactions while addressing heightened process complexity. And lastly, innovation is crucial for developing low-cost technologies. That’s why we needed to embrace cloud computing, leverage our partners’ infrastructure, build robust data analytics capabilities, and prepare for the integration of AI,” Nohad explains.

The journey towards a successful go-live

“The journey leading up to the go-live in January 2023 involved a comprehensive 6-month selection process and a 16-month implementation period. This included the integration of over 8 SAP S/4HANA modules spanning various functions, such as finance, accounting, quality assurance, warehouse management, and inventory management. We developed a substantial amount of 450 User Requirement Specifications (URS) and implemented over 70 Standard Operating Procedures (SOP); a considerable feat given the size of our company. During the process our project team grew from 7 to over 50 people, and at the time of roll-out, we successfully integrated 350 users across five affiliates”, Nohad says.

From selection to streamlining: the implementation of RISE with SAP

After careful consideration, Univercells chose to work with SAP over other ERP providers. The motivation for SAP’s cloud-first strategy, RISE with SAP, a SAP S/4HANA system in a private cloud, was based on four main drivers.

  • The right business fit: SAP’s Business Suite aligned remarkably well with Univercells’ requirements, providing an out-of-the-box solution for 80% of their implementation needs due to SAP’s extensive industry knowledge.
  • Competitive Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): SAP’s TCO was surprisingly competitive for a company of Univercells’ size.
  • GXP compliance services and security: SAP demonstrated maturity in GXP compliance, offering robust compliance services and security measures that are crucial for companies operating in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • delaware’s proven experience: The selection process also considered expertise. delaware showcased commitment, industry expertise, and skilled consultants, making them a valuable partner to implement RISE with SAP.

End-to-end integration: Univercells’ success story

A succession of many small wins has contributed to Univercells’ SAP S/4HANA implementation success. Firstly, the efficient management of project costs, with only a four percent overrun, showcasing good governance and collaboration. Another key win is the establishment of a robust process for consistent management of material master data across the four affiliates with one central shared service, ensuring data integrity and a central source of truth,the delegation of authority, was also achieved with delaware’s assistance and involved small implementations and processes aligned with Univercells’ procurement strategy. Being a scale-up company with inherent complexity, Univercells wanted to collaborate with a partner that understood these intricacies and uncertainties, enabling the creation of an end-to-end integrated system. The success emphasises a strong collaboration between IT and business, ultimately realising Univercells’ objectives.

User engagement triumph

Univercells facilitated system adoption from the beginning through a combination of co-design and comprehensive training. Just five months after the initial adoption, they already started extending the platform with a warehouse management system for their affiliates. With over 100 change requests, it demonstrates strong user engagement. The utilisation of SAP Fiori and embedded analytics, while not new, are a significant differentiator for users working within the SAP ECC environment.

“Cloud IT has been a game-changer”, says Nohad. “It has enabled various types of innovation within the group. Overcoming hesitations regarding data privacy, security, and GMP regulations has been crucial in the biotech industry. Current challenges involve adapting to the Silicon Valley age, integrating AI and IoT, with the cloud playing a crucial role”, Laamim concludes.

Univercells’ journey with RISE with SAP has been marked by a commitment to global health, technological innovation, and a strategic approach to IT solutions. The company’s dedication to making biologics accessible to all aligns seamlessly with SAP’s cloud-first strategy, and the implementation of SAP S/4HANA has been a transformative step. Strong collaboration involving internal and external subject matter experts, as well as consultants from delaware, have supported Univercells in building a compliant and future-proof validation strategy.