New smart building technologies are helping pharmaceutical companies enhance productivity without compromising on compliance or quality. However, to maximise the available opportunities, companies need to choose the right technology providers, explains Adam Chapman, Vertical Sales Director – Life Sciences (Europe) at Honeywell Building Solutions.

The demand for new drugs continues to grow, largely as a result of improved life expectancy, which is fundamentally transforming the population balance. For example, in 2018, 19% of the European Union’s (EU) citizens were aged 65 or over; this is predicted to rise to 29.1% (151 million individuals) by 2080, according to EU statistics. Significantly, the share of people aged 80 and over in the EU is expected to more than double by 2100 to reach 14.6% of the population.

This elderly demographic is the most likely to experience chronic illnesses, which is creating budgetary challenges for governments and healthcare providers. As a result, healthcare stakeholders and payers are increasing pressure on the pharmaceutical industry with respect to pricing. The problem is that innovation is often costly and typically occurs at the start of drug development. However, with the emergence of value-based care, the competitive landscape is changing and pharma organisations therefore need to focus on more holistic care offerings that go beyond the pill and innovate across the full value chain.

Therefore, it is essential for the pharma sector to promote a culture where investing in commercially beneficial innovations sits at the heart of business processes, including the adoption of big data solutions and digital enablers. However, to be fully effective, this approach should be applied across the value chain, inclusive of existing facilities, from manufacturing and research and development (R&D) to distribution.

Of equal importance is security. There needs to be physical protection against both external threats and internal misappropriation, a situation complicated by the globalisation of pharma and supply chain complexities. This increases the risk of theft and counterfeiting, which can endanger patient safety and brand reputation.

However, with the emergence of Pharma 4.0 the risk of cyberattack is heightened, which could have devastating consequences financially and, potentially, to patients if manufacturing is disrupted. To mitigate such concerns the focus should shift from reactive to proactive measures and, with so much at stake, it’s little wonder that organisations are cautious. It is critical that new technologies are field proven and appropriately robust before adoption.

Smart buildings and data analytics

The built environment is becoming increasingly ‘smart’ – Pharma 4.0 and the use of Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, combined with the latest data analytics, are starting to revolutionise how pharma businesses operate. The sector’s traditionally cautious approach to this transformative combination of technologies is slowly being cast aside, partly because of their proven performance and partly because the benefits are significant.

The tools and techniques at the heart of Pharma 4.0, and the data they generate, typically offer users a range of advantages, such as the ability to:

  • Remotely check and control environmental parameters deemed critical for drug quality and patient safety, e.g. temperature and humidity
  • More accurately manage inventory across complex supply chains, enabling up to a 75% reduction of inventory holdings
  • Identify manufacturing efficiencies in centralised systems
  • Enhance the physical security of buildings
  • Scrutinise inventory movements to help prevent loss and the substitution of counterfeit of drugs
  • Provide critical data, such as production yields, when and where it’s needed
  • Maintain uniform working methods across a business to help increase efficiencies
  • Implement predictive maintenance to help identify issues before they result in unnecessary downtime, by 30-40%
  • Manage the impact of regulatory changes to promote compliance with market-specific rules on drug development, manufacturing, use and marketing

Some of these benefits are more obvious than others. For example, one area that can be easily overlooked – but is vital – is environmental control, which has two significant advantages. First, drug development and manufacture need to take place in carefully controlled environments to promote their efficacy; any deviations could result in lost productivity and a concomitant loss of revenue. There may additionally be compliance issues. Also, a properly maintained and comfortable working environment can enhance staff productivity and well-being, which can help maintain an efficient working environment and help retain talent. Studies show that when a working environment is above optimum temperature there is up to a six percent reduction in performance.

Diagnosis and cure

A deep-dive investigation of plant and processes can identify manufacturing efficiencies and production bottlenecks, which can both have a bearing on bottom line performance. Also, a fully integrated building solution can help identify issues within the infrastructure before they become problems, turning reactive maintenance into predictive prevention through the use of next-generation analytics. This can save time, money and prevent the potential loss of production.

The benefits of enhanced, decentralised production in intelligent factories with the optimum working environment are clear. However, Pharma 4.0 is capable of delivering a range of ‘smart’ business solutions that go beyond merely big ticket benefits, such as monitoring occupancy levels of conference rooms to optimise their use. In a highly competitive industry that is also very time sensitive, small changes can result in significant benefits. The end result is that next generation building systems are fundamentally changing how the pharma industry works across the board, including how employees interact with their building services and one another.

Planning for the future

Globally, the pharmaceutical industry is recognised as one of the most regulated sectors; it is also one of the most data-intensive. Information is generated from product development, testing, manufacturing, packaging, marketing and storage, to distribution and delivery. By being able to continuously interrogate this data it is possible to assess and validate against regulatory guidelines, monitor costs and oversee production in new and beneficial ways.

The pharmaceutical industry is also a large energy consumer, which impacts on two key priorities: controlling operational costs and meeting corporate social responsibility strategies. Dr Reddy’s, an Indian multinational company, set a clear objective of a 5% year-on-year energy saving with a 40% overall reduction by 2020. In partnership with Honeywell, the company was able to identify a range of energy conservation measures to support this objective. Honeywell guaranteed the savings as part of an energy performance contract.

Given the pressures faced by the pharma industry these types of benefits aren’t optional – they’re essential to maintaining bottom line performance. And this is where the factories of the future can help; their flexible infrastructure is designed to help accommodate change when and where it is needed. However, not all smart building solutions are the same. In order to allow pharma companies to extract the maximum possible benefits, they need to work side-by-side with a trusted supplier that can help implement flexible, cost-effective scalable systems that can seamlessly integrate with existing IT infrastructure.