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Emerging Technologies Transforming Pharma Supply Chains

The pharmaceutical industry is often seen as a laggard in the adoption of new technology and the tech estate is often old and archaic. As a result, Pharmaceutical companies have disparate siloed systems, often unconnected, which leads to inefficiency and and human errors. In the area of batch review and release, the pain is particularly poignant as siloed systems can impede the timely exchange of essential data, making it difficult to identify and address issues swiftly.

The Laggard in Adoption: Addressing the Need for End-to-End Traceability

This lack of integration often results in inefficiencies and errors, as critical information is dispersed across various systems and documents, leading to confusion during batch approval processes. Communication channels between different departments are not in sync and end up creating bottlenecks in the supply chain, hindering collaboration.

To overcome these obstacles, the pharmaceutical industry must prioritise breaking down silos, foster cross-functional collaboration and implement integrated systems that enable seamless data sharing for end-to-end traceability.

Introduction to Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies, notably Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain and advanced analytics are poised to revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry and can help evolve supply chains to keep up to date with changing regulatory requirements, quickly adapt to shocks such as Brexit and COVID-19 pandemic and other demanding objectives.

AI/ML Optimisation

AI and ML can empower supply chains to harness the power of data analytics in optimising various facets of their operations. Pharmaceutical companies should consider optimising AI/ML for deeper insights into data to forecast demand fluctuations and discern intricate patterns and trends to fine-tune stock levels.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) leverages AI to optimise their inventory levels for vaccines. By analysing data on vaccination schedules, disease outbreaks and regional demographics, GSK can adjust production and distribution to ensure that healthcare providers receive the right quantities of vaccines at the right time. This prevents shortages during high-demand periods and minimises wastage due to expired vaccines.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Through IoT-enabled tracking systems, pharmaceutical companies can achieve unparalleled transparency and accountability throughout their supply chain. Real-time monitoring of attributes like temperature, humidity, air pressure and movement during the transportation of medicines can be hugely beneficial for safeguarding product integrity.

Johnson & Johnson utilises IoT sensors in its manufacturing facilities to monitor environmental conditions such as air quality and temperature. These sensors continuously assess the production environment to ensure optimal conditions for pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. In case of any deviations, automated alerts are sent to relevant stakeholders, enabling timely intervention to prevent quality issues and uphold product integrity.

Blockchain Data Integrity

With Blockchain technology, pharmaceutical supply chains can securely share information across diverse stakeholders, fostering collaboration while safeguarding sensitive data. Imagine a patient scans a QR code on the medication packaging to access its entire supply chain history, verifying its authenticity and reducing the risk of counterfeit drugs entering the market.

Novartis uses Blockchain to securely share sensitive information with suppliers, distributors and regulatory authorities. This enhances collaboration and expedites regulatory compliance efforts, ensuring that all stakeholders have access to accurate and up-to-date information.

Advanced Analytics Insights

Advanced analytics pave the way for precise demand forecasting and production optimisation by delving into market trends and customer behaviour, ensuring timely and accurate responses to shifting demands.

Pfizer leverages advanced analytics to identify inefficiencies across its supply chain. By analysing data on production lead times, inventory levels and transportation costs, Pfizer can pinpoint areas for improvement and implement targeted interventions to streamline operations proactively.

Integration and Interoperability

Integration and interoperability can significantly hasten the delivery of life-saving medications to patients worldwide. The interconnectedness ensures that critical medical advancements can swiftly reach those in need, ultimately improving public health outcomes on a global scale.

AstraZeneca invests in scalable and flexible IT infrastructure to support interoperability across their global operations. By adopting standardised data formats and protocols, such as HL7 for medical data exchange and GS1 for product identification, they can ensure that information flows seamlessly between different systems and interfaces.

Similarly, GlaxoSmithKline shares research findings with many contract manufacturing partners. By using integrated systems, GSK can transmit the necessary information securely and efficiently, allowing the manufacturing partner to initiate production without making delays or errors.

What the Future Holds

Embracing innovation such as AI/ML, IoT, Blockchain, and advanced analytics is not merely advantageous but essential for pharmaceutical companies to stay competitive in today’s dynamic market. Adapting to processes and their evolving regulation protocols is essential.

Lagging in innovation poses a significant risk as the industry undergoes a transformation towards Pharma 4.0. This evolution is propelled by advancements in cell and gene therapy, as well as personalised medicine, reshaping the landscape of the pharmaceutical sector.

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