Wednesday, 27 May 2020

How Pharma Manufacturers Can Cut Costs and Improve Productivity Now

Time and money are the two most precious humanmade resources. For pharmaceutical companies — especially those on the front lines fighting infectious diseases and treating stubborn ailments — making the most of these resources is especially critical.

By Megan R. Nichols 

The following recommendations can help pharmaceutical manufacturers of all sizes retool their enterprises to save both time and money and become an even more indispensable part of the world's health care community:

1. Adopt Predictive Maintenance Systems

Run-to-failure is no longer an option in a modern manufacturing setting. Preventive maintenance improved on that model, but current technologies can take things to another level. That new level is called predictive maintenance.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing is even more vulnerable to downtime and maintenance lapses than other fields. Failure to keep machines clean, stable and efficient invites contamination, product defects, costly downtime and more expensive maintenance over the lifetime of critical devices.

Deploying predictive maintenance using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) allows manufacturers to capture ongoing metrics and measurements for their equipment. Sensors and edge computing technology work together to monitor assets, catch malfunctions before they impact the product or halt the production line and communicate findings automatically with managers and engineers.

These technologies ensure machines stay in optimal condition for as long as possible, without the costly wear-and-tear of running equipment until it fails.

2. Improve Inventory Management to Boost Margins

According to McKinsey, the average pharmaceutical company holds around 180 days' worth of inventory at any given time. Companies identified as "top performers" tend to shave this down to 100 days. However, available research supports even leaner inventory management practices.

Consumer goods manufacturers target 60 days on average as the optimal amount of inventory to keep on hand. Pharmaceuticals are often time-sensitive and life-saving, so McKinsey points to an optimal window of between 80 and 100 days instead. Targeting this window during inventory management could help pharmaceutical companies free up around $25 billion in operational capital, making their businesses leaner and more financially stable over the long term.

3. Automate Repetitive Tasks Such as Compliance

The pharmaceutical industry consistently ranks among the most heavily regulated industries on the planet. Dealing with multiple regulatory environments across states and territories only compounds these challenges.

From sales reports and quality checks to compliance documentation, pharmaceutical companies have many reasons to adopt automation tools. Repetitive tasks and those requiring frequently changing data from multiple sources are error-prone time sinks.

Automated documentation and reporting tools equipped with machine learning can populate frequently used forms and templates with accurate information, leading to fewer errors and less wasted human effort as documents move between different workflows, facilities or partners.

4. Become a Multi-Product Facility

Manufacturing facilities of all kinds can no longer rely on churning out the same couple of products each year. This issue is especially true in the pharmaceutical industry, thanks to more substantial competition, more frequent calls for small-batch manufacturing and emerging health crises. Each of these factors requires more agile and efficient manufacturers and facilities.

There is a clear need for pharmaceutical manufacturers to become more flexible and adaptable. Becoming a multi-product pharma manufacturing plant requires strong segregation between steps in the fabrication process, cross-contamination protocols and the ability to retool production lines quickly to meet small-batch requirements.

Newer technologies can help with this, including continuous flow chemistry reactors. Static batch reactor systems don't provide the efficiency or speed required by multi-product facilities. In contrast, continuous flow reactors offer more safety and scalability and result in cleaner and more consistent product batches.

5. Hire for Soft Skills and Embrace a Growth Mindset

Every pharmaceutical manufacturer needs to embrace a growth mindset if they want to boost productivity, save money and become more efficient and competitive. For many companies, these objectives must start at the beginning with hiring and recruiting.

Factory managers, supply chain managers, quality control specialists and many other critical positions rely on learned skills. As a result, the hiring process tends to focus on subject matter knowledge. This quality is important, undoubtedly. But campaigns to improve productivity need soft skills, too — as well as driven, thoughtful, out-of-the-box individuals to embrace change, growth and ongoing improvement.

Some of the soft skills required to adopt this mindset include open communication, the ability to engage with employees, leadership skills and, of course, an inventive spirit.

Companies that foster a growth mindset through hiring for soft skills will find it much easier to adopt a systematic approach to improvement, including Lean Six Sigma and others. There are several tenets of Six Sigma that offer substantial value to the pharma industry, including:

· Reducing fulfillment time.

· Finding and eliminating sources of error.

· Making supply chains more responsive and resilient.

· Reducing waste in time, materials and labor.

· Keeping the company organized.

Every workplace inevitably finds different ways to redesign their processes for productivity and eliminate redundancies — but the goal of ongoing improvement begins with finding the right people.

It's hard to understate the importance of pharmaceutical manufacturing. It's how we take ongoing breakthroughs in biotechnology and bring them into the global marketplace, where they improve medical outcomes and enhance human life.

The global pharmaceutical industry is set to reach $1.5 trillion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of between 3% and 6%. That's a lot of opportunity for companies that make wise investments in technologies, personnel and forward-thinking, cost-cutting process improvements.

The World Needs More Cost-Effective and Efficient Pharma Manufacturers

Pharma manufacturers can make significant gains within the industry if they adopt more time-saving and cost-effective techniques and processes. By doing so, they can usher in a new era of pharmaceutical practice that's much more productive than its predecessor.
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