Making smart manufacturing in Biopharmaceutical a reality
Digital or disappear
The biopharmaceutical industry is facing its watershed moment. From expiring patents to the competition of global companies that manufacture drugs at 1/4th the cost (and sometimes even cheaper), the challenges keep mounting. Biopharma companies are still heavily dependent on their legacy factories. The existing factory structure is not always optimized to produce drugs faster while reducing waste and facing brutal Asian discount competition.
The biopharma industry is also one of the most regulated industries, and it must adhere to rigorous practices before launching a drug. This requires a factory to churn out drugs of standard quality, failing which will result in heavy fines and, more importantly, reputational damage.
This is where a digital transformation appears as one of the main levers to overcome the performance and technical and regulatory challenges biopharmaceutical operations face while adapting to continuous change. Our clients aim to utilize digital factories to achieve breakthrough performance, improvement in agility, asset utilization and quality assurance. Its industrial teams continuously track financial impact and key operational metrics such as plant cycle time, overall equipment efficiency (OEE) and quality investigations. Digital factories expand this scope to include new ambitions in yield, quality control and regulatory compliance while leveraging digital twins solutions to deliver integrated breakthroughs in critical areas.
Several biopharma companies have already adopted digital and are in various phases of the digitization journey.
However, speed of adoption -at a whole company scale- is of the essence as the business environment is getting competitive with each passing day, in addition to the abovementioned factors. Embracing smart manufacturing is a solution that can help them navigate these challenges.
Such smart manufacturing is based on an agile methodology and utilizes digital technologies with a big data-driven, IoT, and cloud-based approach.
Several biopharma companies have already adopted digital. However, speed of adoption is of the essence as the business environment is getting competitive with each passing day.
Their objective is to improve production line processes and reduce operation costs by optimizing the factory floor (e.g., producing multiple drugs and batches in the same factory) supported by AI and ML.
Pragmatic beginnings, very significant outcomes
Since 2019, we have been working with one of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies to help them deliver smart factory initiatives. Also inspired by other manufacturing verticals, advanced in digitalization, the client was very aware of the challenges they would face in the future and started planning their smart factory initiatives more than five years back.
Indeed, the client conducted early stages test pilots across several solutions to help their factories transform into smart and efficient production units. The test pilot results were then mapped against measurable economic business objectives to understand their impact on the long-term goals and confirm the technology added-value. This exercise ensured that the shop floor teams got the best tried and tested technologies to help them deliver the necessary results.
This differentiated approach was not just restricted to technology but has also trickled into workforce recruitment across all hierarchical levels. It has hired the best manufacturing talent from various industries, including automobile, gaming, cosmetics and even the fashion industry.
The transformation journey delivers significant results and acceleration. The biopharmaceutical company has seen consistent improvements ranging between 20% and 40% across KPIs and witnessed operational and economic impacts across the production lines. With the digitized factory control tower, workers can now get a complete view of the production floor, its events, and alerts from the command center or the mobile tablet and arbitrate on the fly best production prioritizations. IoT sensors capture real-time data and, via the cloud, feed it to the control tower for better decision making, helping the client optimize production according to the market need, quality, lead time to market, and price.
The factory staff now have a better view of the production line, which helps them quickly amend the production cycle time up to 50-70% to produce drugs and vaccines. Optimizing the factory floor has helped the client improve product quality and bring products to the market faster. The impact of this transformation was witnessed during the first wave of the pandemic when it increased the production of aspirin pills to meet the peak demand.
Collaborating for excellence, agility and quality-driven program
Working closely together, we have enabled the client to build digital solutions that scale across global business lines (i.e., general medicine, specialty care, vaccines). These are successfully rolled out faster across tens of sites per annum in its industrial network.
By adopting a fully agile approach, Atos has helped the client co-design, develop and roll out bespoke solutions for about 25 factories worldwide annually, resulting in a better return on investment, reducing overhead costs by three digits and producing superior and consistent quality drugs while significantly increasing the plant cycle time.
The smart manufacturing process is a long-term journey and biopharmaceutical companies have all the technology to begin this transformation. However, companies embarking on this journey must remember that a smart factory is about realizing business benefits first, where adoption and technology play a key role as catalysts to help reach the business goals.
To succeed in their smart manufacturing goals, aspiring biopharma companies should:
- Build and expand the digital transformation strategy - Sharing the vision, its benefits and how teams can achieve it will motivate the entire organization with a genuine motivation to grasp such digitalization and turn from a new challenge to a true opportunity.
- Build a robust digital foundation - This includes platforms, applications and technology tools that will help scale the program at various levels in the factory. Primarily, organizations must assess the legacy technologies and devise a remedy to ensure that it interacts with the digital systems efficiently.
- Organize transversal data - An organization can meet its smart manufacturing goals only if it ensures that the data is accessible across systems. As the smart factory initiative gains momentum, real-time data access will help improve productivity and move to the next stage more quickly.
A smart manufacturing solution is overwhelmingly complex. However, having a larger goal and inserting various performance checks throughout the factory, breaking down these goals into manageable parts while maintaining an agile approach, will help pharma companies achieve new growth much faster.
To learn more about how smart manufacturing can transform your factory, visit us here