How Industry 4.0 Will Benefit the Pharmaceutical Industry

When thinking about the opportunities that Industry 4.0 presents, you get a sense of the excitement that great industrialists of the past must have felt with the introduction of steam power and electricity. These previous industrial revolutions changed the world for the better, and Industry 4.0 will do the same.

What about its impact on the pharmaceutical industry specifically, however? How can your plant benefit from the Smart Factory technologies available today, and those that will be available in the near future?

What Is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 involves the convergence of people, data, and physical systems and the creation and implementation of autonomous computerised processes.

That’s quite a mouthful, so let’s take a run at it again.

Industry 4.0 is about automating and integrating all aspects of your business. This could be everything from the operation, reporting, and monitoring of a machine on your production line, to the ordering of raw materials from suppliers, to the traceability of products through your entire supply chain.

This is often called digitalisation or the digital transformation of your business.

So, what are the main benefits of Industry 4.0 to the pharmaceutical industry?

Increased Productivity

Improved productivity is one of the most important benefits that Industry 4.0 offers. From increased productivity, other benefits also flow.

Examples of increased productivity include:

  • Automating processes so they can be completed faster and more accurately.
  • Reducing downtime through automation and with the use of sensors and predictive systems that make machines self-aware. These technologies allow machines to auto-correct as well as predict failures, allowing for the better planning of maintenance to avoid unexpected downtime.
  • Integrating the supply chain to make it more efficient.
  • Making it possible to move away from batch manufacturing towards continuous manufacturing, a production method which involves much less downtime and improved productivity.

All the above leads to improved OEE in addition to productivity gains in other parts of your business.

Increased Quality

Automated processes and increased levels of automated and continuous monitoring of your production facility will lead to fewer errors and better-quality end products.

Industry 4.0 technologies also make it possible to improve the service you provide to customers. This could be by enhanced production planning, for example, achieved by connecting data from production, procurement, sales, and dispatch into one system.

Decreased Risk

This flows from the previous two points – greater accuracy in production will reduce the risk of poor quality products reaching end consumers.

Makes Regulatory Compliance Easier

Compliance with existing and new regulations coming into force in the EU and other locations around the world is easier using Industry 4.0 technologies. New track and trace systems and serialisation solutions currently being implemented to meet the Falsified Medicines Directive, for example, come under the Industry 4.0 umbrella.

Enhanced Business Oversight

Industry 4.0 technologies offer real-time reporting, the collection of greater amounts of data, better analysis of that data, and improved presentation of data in usable formats. This contextualised data leads to greater knowledge of both business and production processes which, in turn, leads to better decision making.

This offers a number of advantages. For example, contextualised data makes it easier to identify areas for improvement, enabling the better targeting of resources. Contextualised data also offers predictive analysis opportunities such as in product development or forecasting customer/patient demand, helping businesses plan for the future.

Creation of New Business Opportunities

Industry 4.0 will also create new business opportunities for companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

For example, Industry 4.0 technologies make it possible to integrate your supply chain end-to-end in a way that is seamless and highly efficient. This improves productivity, delivering immediate benefits for your business.

A more integrated and efficient supply chain is also easier to scale, however, presenting you with new opportunities for your business.

Increased Profit

When you package all the above together, the result is increased profitability in the business. Your business will also be more competitive and better-equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Most pharmaceutical manufacturers have already started on the Industry 4.0 journey, taking the more realistic evolving approach rather than a revolutionary one. This still delivers benefits, and those benefits will only increase the further along the journey you go.