Revolutionising pharmaceutical manufacturing: harnessing intelligent data capture and analysis for enhanced efficiency

Published: 22-Aug-2023

In this feature, Ramji Vasudevan, Senior Engineering Leader at Altimetrik explores how data capture and analysis can transform the pharmaceutical manufacturing process

The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is facing mounting pressure to be more cost and energy efficient, especially as medicines become increasingly tailored and specific to individual patients.

These bespoke therapies, designed for particular recipients, boast remarkably short and finite shelf-lives — as short as 72 hours in some instances. Consequently, the entire production process, encompassing testing and delivery, must be executed with utmost precision and urgency to ensure timely administration to patients within their critical time window.

The power of data
For organisations to be able to implement analytics, there must be clear data points and precise data collection at each stage; whether it’s during drug production, testing or when making a release decision, all of these aspects must be digitalised to create a footprint that can be analysed and monitored.

This data can then be applied in a very real way. For example, for a personalised oncology medicine, the information can be used to find the closest manufacturing location to the patient to help navigate the tight time restraints when it comes to the shelf-life of a drug.

Similarly, it could locate a manufacturing site that’s further away but has better transport connections to the patient and is therefore a better choice. Doing this manually is time-consuming and open to human error, whereas capturing and analysing all the information digitally streamlines this process as well as improving accuracy.

Revolutionising pharmaceutical manufacturing: harnessing intelligent data capture and analysis for enhanced efficiency

From raw material through to finished product, analytics can help to optimise drug development. This process can take anything from a few days to a few months. Using real-time data, companies can ascertain what is required and when, and work backwards to ensure that the timelines are all in place.

Optimising the process and supply chain is an aspect wherein data capture and the availability of accurate information is critical. Regulatory compliance is another vital aspect. Different countries have varying regulatory requirements and companies need to make sure that their product meets the requirements of regional laws or governing bodies to ensure compliance.

Accelerating digital processes
Another vital element of pharmaceutical manufacturing is “test and release.” Historically, this cycle has involved a lot of paper-based processes. Creating a record for every batch can waste hours — both in terms of capturing and filing this information — whereas digital solutions can accelerate all of this.

Reducing the time spent overall makes the process faster, which is critical when working to tight deadlines.

Digital enablement also helps businesses to make better financial decisions. For example, there may be a standard medicine with a shelf-life of 3 years.

Rather than systematically shipping this product on the day it’s signed off for release, analytics can source the best-priced logistics to ship the product perhaps a day or two later but at a far more competitive price.

Data and the subsequent analysis of that information helps businesses to streamline their organisation; digitising the entire decision-making process often results in substantial cost savings as a result.

Enhancing efficiency through digital twins and Internet of Things
Automation on the manufacturing floor is another crucial element of intelligent data and analytics. We have seen big pharmaceutical companies implement digital twins and setting up production with multiple Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

By leveraging IoT on the manufacturing floor to measure humidity, temperature and output volume, for example, companies can gain more insight into their operational capacity. Combine that data with multiple silos of production and companies can gain extensive insight and maximise efficiencies as well as yield.

Yield can be a tripping point for manufacturers; however, by using IoT sensors that capture the relevant data, alarms can be set that alert them when it’s time to move a product from one part of production to another.

Revolutionising pharmaceutical manufacturing: harnessing intelligent data capture and analysis for enhanced efficiency

Overcoming data challenges
Captured and used properly, data can transform businesses. However, getting the data and being able to analyse it accurately to make decisions can be challenging. There may be many different transaction systems, different sites or even a variety of organisations working together and, as a result, standardising the data being captured is a huge hurdle.

This is further complicated by the need to support this data with the right levels of data integrity and security. Robust governance practices can prove vital to protect both the data and the companies that generate and capture it. 

Enabling control towers through data
Ultimately, the more data captured, the more insight that can be drawn and used to streamline processes. Rooted in good data capture, real-time monitoring is fundamental. The better the quality of the data, the better the decisions that are made.

Data analysis builds up a bigger picture and gives users a holistic overview … but also the ability to drill down and find out information on a certain site or a specific batch.

For businesses manufacturing pharmaceuticals, there is a huge cost and ethical burden on them to produce the most accurate and effective drugs whilst optimising and streamlining processes and efficiencies.

This is when data capture and intelligent analysis become ever more critical. Intelligent data capture has the ability to transform a business and its efficiencies, whilst ensuring that patients get the most effective medication in the right timeframe to meet their needs.

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