The biopharma smart factory of the future

Innovations in biopharmaceutical manufacturing

For biopharmaceutical manufacturing companies, the question is no longer whether to embark on a digital journey for their supply chain and global manufacturing operations. It’s about where and how to start. Explore three key steps to starting your organization’s biopharma smart factory journey and the components needed to enable its success.

Taking stock: The current state of biopharmaceutical manufacturing

Just as the types of biopharmaceutical products being produced today are almost endless in variety, so too are the paths to manufacture them. Yet they share a common challenge: the pressure to produce safe, high-quality, and cost-effective products in a more agile way.

There are four primary drivers of manufacturing floor performance and value: human, process, asset, and network.

These drivers are at the crux of achieving improvements in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process, and a tangible improvement in one or more of them is a must-have in any smart factory deployment. Such an improvement in any one category can lead to significant gains in quality, efficiency, lead times, and ultimately the bottom line.

In a smart factory, machines autonomously run entire production processes. Technologies like robotics, data analytics, distributed ledgers, vision systems, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) come together to connect different operations, respond to new situations, and adapt as a result of those responses. As lean manufacturing, alternative sourcing, and other traditional improvement levers mature, the smart factory is set to bring about the next dramatic shift in manufacturing achievement.

Interest in building a biopharma smart factory is one thing. But knowing where to begin, and how to keep going, is something else altogether. Below, we explore some practical ways to gear up for the smart factory journey, with a focus on the capabilities that are most relevant to biopharmaceutical manufacturing. These considerations won’t take biopharma companies across the finish line, but they can get a company to the end of the beginning—and maybe help deliver some quick wins along the way.

Building the case for change: Rethinking the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process

Broadly speaking, there are two parts to gaining support for the transition to a smart factory setting. One is to limit disruption by piloting biopharma digital solutions in well-targeted areas. Once the solutions prove out, they can be extended to the rest of the organization.

The second part is to build a robust, actionable business case that articulates up front the benefits a smart factory is likely to bring. For biopharma companies, most of the benefits come from five key smart factory features:

  • Connectivity. Integration of data from operations and business systems—as well as from suppliers and customers—can boost efficiency by enabling greater visibility across upstream and downstream processes.
  • Transparency. Real-time data visualization offers transparency across the network and yields insights for more informed decisions. 
  • Proactiveness. A smart factory can predict future outcomes based on historical and real-time data. 
  • Agility. A smart factory can adapt to schedule and product changes with minimal intervention.
  • Optimization. A smart factory operates with minimum manual intervention and high reliability via automated workflows and synchronized assets.

Biopharmaceutical manufacturing companies can prioritize these features based on their most pressing needs. Prioritization helps not only to manage the scope of a business case—a smaller case or two may be more manageable than a sprawling, ambitious one—but also to quantify benefits such as asset efficiency, quality management, cost optimization, and safety and sustainability.

Read about the 2019 Deloitte and MAPI Smart Factory Study on Deloitte Insights.

Access the Digital Capabilities Model for Supply Networks created by Deloitte and ASCM.

Creating a biopharma smart factory strategy

As the number of disparate systems grows in a smart factory, eventually it can become challenging to reconcile their data and draw meaningful conclusions. It’s imperative to address this challenge in a smart factory strategy. When formulating the strategy, it’s important to be clear on the difference between smart factory and technology. The smart factory is about business functions operating in a connected way. Technology’s role is to enable smart factory capabilities while remaining compliant with evolving regulatory requirements. With that in mind, a biopharma smart factory strategy should describe:

Making the biopharma smart factory a reality

Looking ahead

When it comes to biopharma smart manufacturing, keep in mind that no two smart factories will look the same. Each one will have variations in line layouts, products, automation equipment, and other attributes. That said, the components needed to enable a smart factory are largely universal, and each one is important. They include data, technology, process, people, and security.

The smart factory is a long-term, systemic change to the way biopharmaceuticals are manufactured. Make the most of it by keeping the focus on what makes the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process unique, then following through on the changes that are the most relevant and valuable in the context of the specific organization’s production floor.

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