Industry X.0: Helping pharma adapt to its new normal

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December 13, 2017
Industry X.0: Helping pharma adapt to its new normal

At Accenture, we believe that the scale and pace of change in the manufacturing industries demands a new industrial framework. We’re calling this framework Industry X.0; it’s a blueprint for rapid and flexible technological adoption, today and in the future, to help manufacturers thrive.

Today’s pharma industry is almost unrecognisable from a decade ago. Three key trends have created a new normal for manufacturers. Those that can adapt to this new normal will thrive; those that can’t risk being left behind. As we shall see, the success with which pharma businesses can adapt will come down to how fully they embrace Industry X.0 processes and technologies. But first, let’s see what this new normal looks like:

  • Medicine is hyper-personalised: The age of blockbuster drugs has given way to a new era of "niche-buster" drugs: medicines that target patient sub-groups or specific diseases. Novartis has taken this trend to the extreme: creating a treatment that can be customised to the individual patient. Whereas in the high-volume blockbuster drug era entire factories could be set aside to produce a single drug, today they must be set up for multiple production runs of a range of low-volume products.

  • The drug pipeline has accelerated: A decade ago, drugs typically look around ten years to progress through the three stages of human testing. The trend towards hyper-personalised drugs means that this process can be accelerated as failures are detected sooner due to the greater accuracy of targeting. New drugs are now routinely moved through human trials in just three to five years. Manufacturers therefore have shorter timeframes in which to prepare for new pharmaceuticals, and their operations must therefore be more agile than ever.

  • Pharmaceuticals are more complex: The personalisation of medicine is also making drugs increasingly complex. Ten years ago, some of the more complex drugs contained around 25 molecules. Today, we’re seeing drugs with 25,000 molecules, such as HUMIRA. This step up in manufacturing complexity is akin from going from building bikes to building jumbo jets in just 10 years.

Combined, these three challenges represent a significant value-at-risk scenario for pharma businesses. If manufacturers fail to digitalise their operations and make better use of data to inform decision making, they’ll struggle to cope with the new normal. Those with inefficient processes put the quality of their products at risk, and that could prove costly: Firms face the possibility of stringent regulatory penalties or, if faulty products make it to market, potentially crippling damage to their brand.

Industry X.0 and the transformation of pharma

So, how can pharma businesses ensure their operations are fit for purpose? The answer lies in the Industry X.0 framework: putting in place the right mix of technologies and designing them in such a way as to be of most benefit to users. In the pharma industry, new research from Accenture has identified several key technologies which could unlock £22.4 billion in value for the UK’s pharma companies. These are key enablers for the insights-centric, agile manufacturing process Industry X.0 enables:

  • Big data: Invest in IoT sensors and other data capture systems across your Manufacturing Execution Systems and Lab IT systems.

  • Artificial Intelligence: Use advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to interrogate your data for the insights you need to make better decisions, enhance your processes and improve your products.

  • Data visualisation: Make data useable to everyone in the organisation to help with insight-driven decision making.

  • Autonomous robots: Automation is essential to creating more efficient manufacturing processes and supply chains.

In pharma there’s a great deal at stake: human errors can, in worst case scenarios, have an adverse effect on the health of the public. That aside, the ever-present threat from the regulator means that people must be assisted, not hindered, by their technology. In practice, this means ensuring that all technologies are designed with the end user in mind; that they do not overwhelm with data, but instead provide an intuitive helping-hand throughout the working day.

Pharma businesses that get this technology mix right will find they have a more efficient operation that can meet the demands of a much-transformed industry, while also driving innovation. Industry X.0 manufacturers will be able to incorporate core operational efficiencies and apply combinations of advanced digital technologies to continuously create new, hyper-personalised products at pace. Is your business ready for this new normal? If not, you should start planning your transformation as soon as possible.

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