With the growing number of medical ailments across the globe, the pharmaceutical industry will undoubtedly become more important than ever in the near future. There is a paradigm shift from the mass production of drugs to offering more customized and specialized drugs to a smaller group of patients and this is greatly expected to improve the effectiveness of treatments. The Pharma 4.0 initiative is expected to not only address productivity issues but also provide the industry with smarter tools that can help ensure drug safety. Everyday factory equipment, people, and processes are thus getting increasingly smarter with the advent of digitization.
The introduction of digitization in pharmaceutical manufacturing will also be instrumental in enabling a seamless data exchange across the pharmaceutical supply chain. The connectivity of product, people and process is what constitutes the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Manufacturing will undoubtedly be the biggest beneficiary of IIoT. Thus, industries such as pharma and healthcare will certainly stand a good chance to continue to benefit from IIoT. Analytics-enabled data management vis-à-vis traditional paper-centric approaches will come a long way in being crucial enablers for important management decisions. The pharmaceutical industry should consider making investments in IIoT technologies, most of which are already mature in other industries and have proven effective in improving the efficiency of complex manufacturing operations. Leveraging lessons from this should help companies improve their financial and operational performances.
Digital technologies have thus become a quintessential component of the manufacturing industry in automating operations, streamlining processes, and integrating the different manufacturing departments that are otherwise not adequately connected. IIoT technologies will enable manufacturers gain a 360-degree view of their plant operations with the ability to drill down to any level of detail at any stage of product development. This essentially would mean that data would be made available at just a tap of the screen. Manufacturing companies will transform from being small local hubs to global market places with the introduction of IIoT.
The pharmaceutical industry has been among the forerunners in adopting these digital technologies that can help improve process efficiencies, reduce efforts, and increase profits. Within the industry there has always been an impetus to manage manufacturing processes more effectively.
However, the pharmaceutical industry faces several challenges in being one of the most regulated manufacturing industries. The industry demands a good understanding of manufacturing processes and strict adherence to stringent regulatory standards that guide these processes. Due to regulatory compliance issues in this sector, it has become mandatory for companies in the pharma industry to implement digital technologies. As is the case with any other industry, pharmaceutical manufacturing is faced with challenges, such as the need to enhance product quality, improve process efficiencies, reduce cycle times, reduce scrap and rework, track products, ensure adherence to regulatory guidelines, reduce downtime, and connect the supply chain among several others. This wall of challenges will however crumble eventually, thanks to the advancing benefits of digitization.
With emerging benefits of industrial IoT and its increased applications in manufacturing, the dynamics of the industry is changing considerably. All information about machines, people, and materials involved in pharmaceutical manufacturing is required to be recorded according to mandatory requirements set down by government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is also an increasing demand for real-time reporting within the industry and IIoT plays a crucial role in making the requisite data available. Connectivity ensures management and monitoring of manufacturing operations on the factory floor. Digital initiatives can by large provide a strong foundation for initiatives, such as Industry 4.0 to take over factory management. Manufacturers will be required to constantly upgrade their digital systems until such time when Industry 4.0 can be implemented in a full-fledged manner.
Factory machines may already be connected and controlled by systems such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) or even Distributed Control systems (DCS). Industrial IoT is an added perk that brings along with it the power of data and computational prowess. This could now imply bringing in the power of analytics to generate valuable insights that can help oversee plant workflows and track and maintain machine activities much ahead of a breakdown. The benefits of IIoT in pharma manufacturing will pretty much be the same as is the case with several other industry verticals. The distinguishing advantage, however, could be in the fact that IIoT can go a long way in helping pharma manufacturers ensure a proper documentation during production for compliance reasons. Industry 4.0 could also help steer the pharma industry towards a paperless environment with lesser human intervention involved. This could involve terabytes of data being stored and processed on the cloud, as traditional methods of data storage get completely phased out. Introduction of IIoT in pharma would also mean making a fundamental shift towards outcome-based targeted therapies characterised by a more individualized production method.
IIoT plays an important role in the continuous monitoring of connected factory equipment and personnel. This real-time tracking of equipment can help improve effectiveness of factory processes by enabling informed decisions through data resultant of connectivity. The other important benefit of IIoT in pharma manufacturing is the modular automation of pharma production plants, which enables a faster time-to-market for pharma products.
Pharma is also an industry that has extremely sensitive storage conditions. The manufactured products typically are of high value and have a short storage life. They also mostly need to be stored under prescribed storage temperatures, which cannot be monitored if not for critical components of IIoT such as sensors and connectivity. IIoT has become an integral part of manufacturing and therefore it is only natural that the pharma industry should look to adopting it at the earliest. This would involve manufacturing companies taking important decisions such as phasing out legacy systems and transforming business models.
The IIoT may be at its nascent stages of development, but its impact on pharmaceutical manufacturing is certainly indisputable. Only those market participants able to see the potential gains and start taking those small baby steps will be the ones who will eventually be able to reap benefits from IIoT.