How Supply Chain 4.0 is transforming pharmaceutical manufacturing

John Burgess is the Project Delivery Director at supply chain solutions Balloon One. He has more than 16 years of experience within the supply chain industry and, here, he outlines how Supply Chain 4.0 is set to transform the manufacturing industry

With government policy failures, a growing skills gap and Brexit uncertainty, the UK’s manufacturing industry is having a hard time.

Demand is slowing and the industry is currently stuck at an almost seven year low, according to a press release from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.

But the future of our country’s manufacturing industry could be set to improve. With new technologies being developed all the time, manufacturing is gaining new ways to streamline processes, in particular Supply Chain 4.0 — the most significant transformation in the supply chain since the introduction of computers.

Supply Chain 4.0 relies on a concept called the Internet of Things (IOT), which allows machines to collect, store and distribute data without any human input. Machines built with artificial intelligence (AI) can then use the data gathered by the IOT to make important decisions quickly and easily.

In an industry that relies so heavily on the accumulation of data to check quality, yield, testing, storage and distribution, pharmaceutical manufacturing can really benefit from Supply Chain 4.0

In an industry that relies so heavily on the accumulation of data to check quality, yield, testing, storage and distribution, pharmaceutical manufacturing can really benefit from Supply Chain 4.0. Below, I’ll be outlining just some of the ways this new technology is set to transform the industry.

Improving efficiency at factory level

The biggest effect Supply Chain 4.0 will have on manufacturing is its ability to make processes more efficient.

Continuous Process Verification (CPV) to assess drugs according to regulatory guidelines can be improved with digitalisation. IOT can monitor machinery and equipment on the factory floor, collecting performance data to work out drug yield and quality as products are being made, making regulatory compliance easier.

IOT can also measure how well machines are working to predict the likelihood of it failing in the near future. This means you can repair the fault before it has a chance to make a significant impact on production.

Anticipating customer demand accurately

The supply chain relies on being able to anticipate and match customer demand as accurately as possible. Traditional methods of forecasting analyse previous data and sales patterns to predict the incoming demand.

But these methods don’t take into account external forces that can cause anomalous results. Factors such as broken machinery or economic changes can put a halt to processes, but calculations don’t include them. This means that these traditional methods aren’t as accurate as they should be.

With new software and technologies entering the industry, manufacturers are able to add some extra information to the mix, such as economic data and health patterns, to make calculations more accurate.

For example, new algorithms can detect that once the pound drops below a certain level, pharmaceutical demand may drop as well. This means that you can anticipate customer demand more accurately based on the current market.

Because you’ll be producing the right amount for your customers as and when they need it, there’ll be less waste, lower need for storage and reduced costs. This can then, ultimately, increase your profits.

Improving communication within sectors

The UK has an ageing population as a result of better and more advanced healthcare. This means that pharmaceutical companies are expanding their reach and operations further afield. But, as your supply chain gets bigger, effective collaboration between sectors becomes more difficult.

IOT can store data in a larger system that all sectors can access at the same time. This makes it easier for information to be passed along the supply chain, from the laboratory all the way through to packing and distribution, meaning there’s lower risk of miscommunication and errors. This can then result in smaller lead time and higher quality product, improving customer satisfaction.

Pharmaceuticals is an industry that’s constantly seeking ways to improve processes. With the implementation of Supply Chain 4.0, you can upgrade your data accumulation and analysis. This can then help to improve communication and streamline the manufacturing process from beginning to end.