Digital Transformation in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturing Companies

Digital transformation is now an everyday reality in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies. New and developing technologies create opportunities for digital transformation to take place, but the main driver is strategic planning and decision-making.

In other words, senior executives in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries are increasingly prioritising digital transformation.

There are good reasons for this. In manufacturing facilities around the world, for example, digital transformation is improving OEE, enhancing productivity, driving efficiency savings, and delivering return on investment.

The Path to Digital Transformation

New technologies combined with a business strategy that embraces digitalisation creates opportunities in pharma and MedTech businesses to change, improve, and identify new opportunities in a range of different business areas. This includes business management and culture, product development, supply chain management, marketing, customer service, regulatory compliance, and more.

The technologies being used include automation, AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, data analytics, blockchain, and more.

The Benefits of Digital Transformation

A substantial portion of companies in the health sector, including pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, has started the process of digital transformation. For some, though, this progress amounts to dipping a toe in the water.

The benefits and opportunities that digital transformation presents, however, are too great to ignore.

Those benefits include:

  • Improving efficiency and productivity – crucially, these benefits go beyond the traditional silos that exist in the manufacturing industry. The real benefits lie in efficient and productive business units that are truly integrated, i.e. production lines integrated with supply chain management, finance, customer service, marketing, and product development.
  • Identifying new business opportunities – for example, through the use of data analytics to develop new products, by using data modelling to prove the long-term cost savings of preventative treatments, increasing consumer/patient and prescriber choice through mass customisation-enabled manufacturing operations, and more.
  • Improving patient outcomes – by developing new products, establishing more efficient and robust supply chains, reducing manufacturing costs, improving product quality, etc.
  • Building better relationships with patients and consumers – with fully customisable products, new technologies like wearable tech that improves diagnoses and treatment decisions, the smooth availability of supply, improved product quality, faster and more accurate resolution of problems, etc.
  • Building better relationships with prescribers – through helping them improve the level of care they offer by, for example, giving them more effective products, more innovative and efficient supply processes, greater access to information and support, etc

Improving Manufacturing

Manufacturing is one of the most significant areas that pharmaceutical and medical device companies are seeing improvements delivered by digital transformation.

Fully automating repetitive manufacturing processes that currently require human intervention is one example of a practical and realistic application of technologies that come under the digital transformation umbrella. It’s also an example that delivers rapid return on investment.

Other practical and realistic digital transformation applications include:

  • Predictive maintenance – using sensor, communication, cloud computing, digital twin, and data analytics technologies to substantially reduce unplanned equipment downtime and improve OEE
  • Product traceability – digitalising the product traceability process with serialisation solutions not only improves accuracy, but makes it possible to access detailed product data in seconds
  • Management oversight – making it possible for senior engineers and managers to oversee manufacturing operations from anywhere in the world using cloud computing, communication, and remote access and control technologies.
  • Equipment systems integration – using software programmes to fully integrate machines, platforms, systems, and equipment regardless of vendor, physical location, or business unit.
  • Server infrastructure management – using cloud technologies to significantly reduce the financial and resource burden of on-site server infrastructure management and support.
  • Technical and engineering support – technologies like augmented reality, mixed reality, video conferencing, and remote access reduce the cost of engineering and technical support while also improving the efficiency of that support.

Conclusion

The future of the pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing industries is changing as a result of digital transformation. From the perspective of your organisation, you don’t need a revolutionary approach. Constantly moving forward, improving, and migrating your business to a digital model is, however, essential.

Darragh McMorrow

Darragh McMorrow, SL Controls’ Commercial Director, has 15 years of engineering services and contract solutions experience acquiring an in-depth knowledge of manufacturing systems integration services. He has direct responsibility for developing long-term partnerships with companies in the medical devices, pharmaceutical, and FMCG sectors as well as for implementing commercial strategies to continue growing the business nationally and internationally.

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