Express Pharma

Empowering Indian Pharma with IIoT

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 India Pharma Inc needs to arm itself with a forward-looking attitude, strategic roadmap, significant investments and meaningful collaborations to leverage the tremendous promise and potential of IIoT

By Lakshmipriya Nair

As Industry 4.0 plays out, remaining competitive in an increasingly complex market place has become an arduous task. Also, in this milieu, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is taking centre-stage, with a lot being discussed and written on this technology and its massive potential to enhance visibility, quality and productivity across the pharma value chain.

For instance, business leaders, Ajit Singh, Chairman, ACG and Dr Sanjit Singh Lamba, MD, Eisai Pharma India, emphasise how IIoT is now a prerequisite for continued success. Singh says, “IIoT will not only drive the next industrial revolution but also bring about the information revolution. It has the power to transform the pharma industry at a very rapid pace, the ability to transform everything we do, right from clinical trials and drug discovery to manufacturing, supply chain and remote monitoring of patients.”

Ajit Singh

Dr Lamba also points out that as the Pharmacy of the World, product quality and efficacy, regulatory compliance, operational efficiency etc. are some of the major objectives of the Indian Pharma Inc. With IIoT, we can empower equipment, people, environment and infrastructure to intelligently communicate with each other and achieve these goals.

However, the pharma industry hasn’t managed to leverage its power and capabilities completely. Express Pharma and ACG, hence, recently collaborated to organise a seminar on the theme, ‘Empowering Indian Pharma through IIoT’ to seek the answers to this conundrum. The event served as a platform for leaders and experts to outline how IIoT represents a compelling opportunity for the pharma industry to optimise efficiency and efficacy of its complex and critical operations, such as manufacturing and supply chain management.

This article is a summation of the inferences drawn and lessons learnt from the views, concerns and insights shared on this knowledge-sharing platform. And, we understand that success with IIoT will largely hinge on the following three factors:

Milind Gujar

A growth mindset
A clear message from the seminar was that it is high time that the pharma industry started looking at emerging technologies like IIoT as a fundamental aspect of their growth strategy. Antony Prashant, Partner – Strategy & Operations, Life-sciences Consulting Leader for Deloitte India, explains it very well. He highlights that until 2015-16, the overall EBIDTA margins have been around 28-30 per cent, but in 2019 these margins have come down to 20-22 per cent, registering a six per cent drop in EBIDTA margins, and 20 per cent reduction in profits in the industry. While admitting that there are several reasons for this situation, such as price pressures, reducing the period of exclusivity, growing focus on emerging markets etc., he informs that now the companies are trying to drive profitability by enhancing outputs from existing assets, optimising costs and collaborating better across the value chain. And, IIoT, with its ability to predict potential failures as well as provide end-to-end monitoring and visibility across the value chain, is one of the key enablers.

Nihar Medh

But, as Mathew Cherian, Head of Group of Sites for Asia, Sanofi highlights, the pharma sector’s fear of failure is impeding its ability to think differently, to take risks. These mindset barriers are hindering the adoption of IIoT and the subsequent benefits it can usher.

The other experts too reiterated this point of view and were emphatic that only by bringing about this mindset change at all levels, can pharma organisations accelerate their progress with smarter and faster business decisions.  Tech expert, Faiyaz Engineer, Program Manager – Digitalisation and Analytics, ACG puts the point across very succinctly when he says, “Digitisation and automation are fuelling a tornado of change. Therefore, every team, every individual needs to be empowered to develop a digital mindset. Digital transformation begins from decentralisation of innovation. Everyone in your company has to be an innovator. It is not just about connecting machines but also people.”

Ashok Nayak

Singh from ACG goes one step further and calls for a more revolutionary transformation. He opines that we should change even our education systems along with our management styles to evolve from a conservative and risk-averse industry into a more tech-savvy and innovation-driven one.

In-depth know-how and strategy
The life sciences industry has realised that they will inevitably have to move toward adoption of IIoT sooner or later to stay relevant and competitive. They understand that IIoT in pharma can usher more efficient production and quality control measures, improve data integrity, decrease the risk of machinery breakdowns/malfunctions with predictive and preventive maintenance, identify and respond to compliance issues instantly and assure precision production with real-time plant-floor visibility.

For instance, Milind Gujar, Chief Quality Officer (QA/QC), RPG Life Sciences explains how it is important to have control over all systems in your organisation to maintain high quality and the role of digital technologies and IIoT in doing so. He says, “Data generated through IIoT makes it easier to showcase your capabilities during audits and it clearly demonstrates that your product, your facility and your systems are compliant with regulatory guidelines. It also helps to keep your SOPs clear and rectify mistakes or deviations, if any.”

Sanjay Nandavadekar

Similarly, Nihar Medh, Vice President & Global Procurement Head, Cipla extols the virtues of IIoT to enhance the pharma supply chain. He opines that pharma companies need to be more agile to ensure that their products reach the right person at the right time. And, adopting IIoT will help predict to build an intelligent supply chain which can predict problems, improve inventory management and procurement practice, and take appropriate actions at the right time to prevent any hassles or undesired outcomes.

Yet, a multitude of factors — including an insufficient understanding of the concept and lack of technological know-how — have been thwarting several life sciences companies, across the globe, from embarking to traversing this journey. Therefore, building the knowledge and capabilities to envision, design, implement, and maintain complex systems has emerged as a major imperative. The industry needs to boost its understanding to deal with issues of data security, skills shortages and legacy equipment and succeed in an IIoT era.

Antony Prashant

Therefore, experts recommend the sector to start small and look at early gains to build confidence and knowledge about the technology. Dr Lamba counsels, “Dream big, start small. Choose the most compelling applications to get a hang of the technology, scale fast and fail early. Run a proof of concept and make it more collaborative.”

Ashok Nayak, CIO, IPCA too offers similar advice. He states, “Start with small projects to improve predictive maintenance and asset management for early gains and build on these endeavours for continued accomplishments.” He also asks the industry to not get deterred from embarking on the IIoT journey due to cost factors. He advises, “Do not just look at the costs, but also the value it brings to you”. He explained that since these technologies usher improved compliance, quality controls and operational efficiencies, they are worth the risk – time and costs incurred.