MES: Just What the Doctor Ordered
How manufacturing execution systems can help with sustainability strategies
Nic Azad | | 3 min read | Opinion
Pharmaceutical manufacturers are under pressure from investors, business partners, and customers – to fulfill orders faster and with more accuracy; to sagely anticipate obstacles and deftly preempt shortages; and to minimize carbon footprints and make operations as sustainable as possible. The era of digital transformation and increased awareness of sustainability have made it imperative for manufacturers to evolve with the times and improve their operations in any and every way possible.
Though the drive to operate more sustainably transcends industries, pharmaceutical manufacturers are under a particular lens of scrutiny. How can they achieve improvement and where should they start? Instead of striving to become omniscient, actualizing true perfection, and eliminating the need to sleep, manufacturers should instead look to digital solutions.
Between the proliferation of innovation and recent periods of economic challenges, many businesses are pressured to “do more with less.” With advanced technology, this mission is both attainable and sustainable; pharmaceutical manufacturers can absolutely increase productivity while saving on time, driving down costs, and reducing waste.
Before manufacturers can address any shortcomings, they must first identify them. Again, technology is the key here. With that said, the term “technology” – especially in today’s rapidly expanding digital landscape – can be quite vague. And that’s why I want to focus on manufacturing execution systems (MES). Specifically designed to streamline operations management, MES platforms can be used for many tasks, such as monitoring inventory levels, standardizing recipes, and ensuring consistent, optimal batch execution – all of which can bolster sustainability, help increase on-time and in-full percentages, and drive down operating costs.
Another application of MES lies in electronic batch records, which help make businesses more productive (and compliant) by automating record-keeping processes, such as monitoring changes and actions, tracking recorded values, and capturing electronic signatures. When endeavoring to operate at a fast, efficient, competitive pace, being able to access key records and notes in real-time is vital. Nothing stymies progress like having to sort through piles of disjointed paper to try and piece together a picture of what took place during a given run.
MES platforms can also enable lean management, which helps reduce waste and lessen operating costs. Lean (as it is often referred to) is a production style that helps businesses increase quality and efficiency, while reducing waste via practices like short interval control, 5S (sort, set, shine, standardize, sustain) audits, autonomous maintenance, and metrics and reporting.
When it comes to manufacturing, overall efficiency directly translates to sustainability. Optimizing inventory management means minimizing both waste and spoilage. Better, smarter production (through real-time analytics, automated processes, and contextualized insights) means reaching quota faster and reducing machinery idle- or run-time, which in turn curbs factory emissions. Knowledge is power, and the better insights pharmaceutical manufacturers have into their operations, the better they can steer their facilities toward a more sustainable future.
Though a piecemeal approach may help move the needle, there are unified software solutions that can offer manufacturers comprehensive insights through a single pane of glass. After all, any tool geared toward efficiency should also be efficient for the end-users. Though not a cure-all, MES are designed to give manufacturers the end-to-end, enterprise-wide visibility, knowledge, and control they need to markedly improve their operations – and sustainability.