Industry x.0 and pharma: Let’s get ‘techie’

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January 26, 2018
Industry x.0 and pharma: Let’s get ‘techie’
By: Barry Heavey

Recently, I was looking at how Accenture’s Industry X.0 framework can help pharmaceutical manufacturers address the challenges of their new market dynamics. Industry X.0 is, if you’ll remember, a blueprint for a business that’s able to seamlessly incorporate existing and future technological innovations. It’s all about creating a manufacturing organisation where advanced digital technologies can be combined to continuously create new, hyper-personalized experiences. Here, I’d like to go into a little more detail about the core Industry X.0 technologies that pharma businesses need to be looking at today.

Sensors and data capture

Industry X.0 is largely focused on the ‘make’ part of the supply chain. For me, that means IoT must lie at its heart. Any pharma business serious about long-term success must undertake the large-scale ‘sensorisation’ of their manufacturing and lab systems. Sensors are so important because they capture that raw ingredient for successful digital transformation: data. The more sensors you have in your manufacturing and lab operations, the more likely you are to find useful correlations and insights that you can then use to enhance your processes, create operating efficiencies and even feed in to your innovation cycle.

AI and machine learning

These insights do not come on their own, however. An Industry X.0 manufacturer therefore needs to embed the right digital tools into their organisations. Today, simple business intelligence solutions aren’t enough; a future-proof digital strategy is one based on deep analytics and machine learning. By training machines what to look for, you can reduce time-to-insight and find correlations that no human data scientist would have been able to find. The trend towards low-volume, multi-product manufacture in pharma, combined with the increasing complexity of pharmaceuticals chemistry, means that there are more variables than ever when it comes to production. Machine learning/AI analytics is therefore fast becoming essential to a successful operation.

Data visualisation is key

Finally, Industry X.0 manufacturers are set apart by their use of data visualisation tools. Dashboards make it simple for anyone in the organisation to access and understand data, helping them make decisions much more easily. This includes everyone from the technician on the factory floor who needs to make an immediate decision about production, right up to site managers who want to see how an entire plant is performing. The right visualisation tools reduce reliance on IT and the analytics team, accelerating decision-making and freeing internal resources.

Soon, pharma businesses will need to go a step further and look to integrate advanced data visualisation tools such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Digital Twin. The reason is simple: our research has shown that these technologies, along with big data, AI and automation, could represent up to £22.4 billion in value for the UK’s pharma industry.

AR and VR technologies are more advanced data visualisation technologies. Where these technologies add value is that they can help de-risk pharma manufacture. As we all know, one of the main sources of risk in any pharma business is human error; and, conversely, human improvement in a key method of enhancing manufacturing processes. AR and VR are useful in the same way any good data visualisation tool is useful: it provides a better interface between the data and the person, reducing the likelihood of mistakes and increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes. I see this technology being used widely to help quickly and safely train new employees, as well as having a more general use in providing people with the real-time information they need to make better decisions on a daily basis.

Your organisation’s Digital Twin

One last visualisation technology is Digital Twin. Using a mix of analytics and data visualisation, Industry X.0 businesses create a digital copy of their operations, based on the reams of data flooding in from their sensors, as well as other core data sets. The Digital Twin provides a model of your business that you can experiment with risk-free. It allows you to see what would happen following certain actions; the benefits that would be achieved and the unforeseen complications that would arise; all at low cost and without any risk to your actual operations. Digital Twin has huge potential, but it will only work for companies that have gone all the way with their Industry X.0 transformation and factored in all the many variables that exist in a large-scale manufacturing operation. Digital Twin is, therefore, inseparable from IoT.

Getting digital right

I will conclude on a note of caution: simply investing in these technologies isn’t enough. We’ve found that many businesses are struggling to get the benefits they expected from digital tools. The reason for this is that they’ve gone about it in a siloed and piecemeal way. Pharmaceutical companies must instead completely reinvent their operating models, production and value chains to be data-centric and agile. Only this root-and-branch transformation will yield the results you need.

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