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Posted 29 March 2021 by
Anneleen Tronquo
Managing Partner Planning Solutions

Industry 4.0 in Pharma: 3 key takeaways from Manupharma 2019

On December 3 and 4, the 2019 Manupharma conference in Frankfurt took place, bringing together stakeholders from big and small pharmaceutical companies to share inspiration on the current state of play around Industry 4.0 and new innovations in the field of pharma manufacturing.

In short, two days filled with sharing ideas, getting inspired and networking with like-minded professionals within the pharmaceutical industry.

While this industry is often considered one of the front runners in innovation, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how to best tackle Industry 4.0 topics. Bigger companies have already started executing roadmaps while others are still on the verge of rolling out successful pilots to their supply network, and some are only just watching what’s happening from the sidelines and plan to start the journey toward their digital pharma plant in the years to come.

So, here’s what I learned at Manupharma 2019 on how to tackle Industry 4.0 in pharma today:

1. The digital journey is one where a company constantly needs to challenge itself

Bayer set the scene with John O’Sullivan, VP and global head of IT BP product supply for pharmaceuticals at Bayer, and Kalil Lessi, global IT business partner pharmaceuticals product supply at Bayer, reviewing their digital initiatives currently taking place in pilot factories. Among many other cases, they created value in the improvement of QC lab lead time by applying digital twin concepts. According to Bayer, some of the challenges they are facing can be categorized into four different areas:

  • Culture: “How do we change our culture to create a more agile and digital mindset?”
  • Data: “Can we access all relevant data from our machines and interfaces?”
  • Cybersecurity: “How do we handle data in a secure way and, as such, avoid risking security breaches?”
  • GxP: “How do we perform changes in a validated environment?”

So, being open to challenging yourself all the time will enable you to know your challenges and get insights on how to deal with them, which is essential when working on your digital journey.

2. Agile is a mindset that can be achieved by embedding leadership company-wide

Automotive, being a discrete industry, is often seen as the example when it comes to manufacturing innovation. They are very standardized, with execution platforms already defined for their plants for many years. This means that this industry is most likely to be the furthest ahead in Industry 4.0. Sama Mbang, digitalization manager at Daimler, shared that being a frontrunner in this area does not necessarily mean that the right culture and mindset is automatically present as well.

Just like Bayer, they faced some challenges getting there. One of their main assets? The fact that they took a very strong top to bottom approach, with leaders setting the scene and empowering key stakeholders within the organization to embrace and lead the digital journey.

Implementing this kind of change management process will empower your people and will allow the wave of digitalization to reach the entire company.

3. Being open to learning from your mistakes helps you in future endeavors

Industry 4.0 and digital transformation in manufacturing is not only a journey that is explored by the big players; also, smaller companies and CMOs can differentiate themselves and stay competitive in the market by starting the journey now. One of the presentations that proofed this point and inspired the audience was the one from Christophe Dohr at ACINO. Dohr illustrated their digital journey with some practical examples, including moving to paperless QC labs, introducing advanced analytics and getting value from applying robotic process automation techniques. The fact that they’re doing so well here is just because they’re able to identify their successes AND failures and take these learnings to move on.

Manupharma 2019 was an inspiring and insightful event with lots of industry leaders to listen to and connect with! Happy to hear your thoughts and comments, so let’s discuss!

Anneleen Tronquo

Anneleen is a managing partner at Bluecrux.