Breaking the Fourth Wall
Embracing Industry 4.0 concepts is paramount to the pharma’s continued success. But is it easier said than done?
Angelo Stracquatanio | | Opinion
From COVID-19 to cancer, life science companies are faced with a more challenging landscape than ever before; they are consistently racing to market cures for deadly diseases, conducting lifesaving research, and are working tirelessly to keep our global communities safe. But technology continues to advance, and I believe there is increasing understanding in the industry about how intelligent technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality can help with some of the challenges. Welcome to Industry 4.0.
Pharma’s need for systems that understand manufacturing operations at a high-level, as well as the need for greater visibility, compliance, and reliability across supply chains, is pushing organizations to embrace 4.0 standards, but only smart, connected systems can truly support and address the needs of modern companies. Simply put, intelligent, connected systems are far superior to flat, cumbersome legacy systems – the industry faces far too many challenges to use anything but the best quality technologies available. But to select the right systems companies must have a clear definition of Industry 4.0 and how its concepts can meet their needs.
With a highly competitive and ever-changing industry like pharma, speed, safety and quality are paramount. Industry 4.0 is all about connected cohesive systems that bring together the workforce, equipment, and environment to help businesses gain greater organizational clarity, reliability, and agility. Smart, connected systems can help organizations better manage resources, predict outcomes and prepare for the future – translating to greater speed to market and scalability.
As pharma shifts towards more complex manufacturing processes for products like cell and gene therapies, it has become even more apparent that conventional systems lack the capabilities to keep up with ever-changing market demands too. Traditional manufacturing technology was built for large-scale, standardized drug batches. They take months to custom-code by specialized developers and once the system is built, you are locked-in as changes are time-intensive and difficult. When you are making custom, small-scale batches for cell and gene therapies, this approach can’t keep up.
In my experience, once life science businesses realize how intuitive and agile Pharma 4.0these solutions are, they immediately understand their value. It’s starkly apparent that they improve batch manufacturing and workflow execution. For example, a system with a UI/UX that empowers operators to directly make changes to the system as opposed to having to work through a developer can be revolutionary. It means that the people who are making the drugs can modify their technology to match their own pace of change. that provides the UI/UX
The benefits of these systems aren’t limited to one department or team either. From the operators and engineers who work directly with these products each day, to the leaders of big pharma companies, all the professionals within a business can appreciate their ease of use and ability to streamline manufacturing. For operators, designing a new procedure takes hours and not weeks, for engineers, creating an IoT connection with a piece of equipment can take a few clicks, and for leaders, having real-time access to manufacturing data can become routine.
As more companies adopt Industry 4.0, those who don’t could face greater competitive challenges and slower commercialization journeys. Relying on paper procedures, spending greater time on transcriptions, and not having the ability to view operations will only lead to greater hurdles in the long run. I urge all companies who have not yet explored Industry 4.0 technologies to dive deeper into the area. The industry will continue to face unprecedented challenges and it deserves more cohesive systems capable of scaling operations and ensuring the highest level of quality, reliability, and safety across processes so that lives can be protected globally.