For pharma, resiliency starts on the plant floor

Aug. 23, 2022
In a world mired in supply issues, focusing on machine health can provide relief

The demand for lifesaving therapeutics and vaccines never stops, despite growing supply chain issues, difficulties in sourcing raw materials, and capacity constraints. There are many processes in the pharma industry that make the products people need, but one thing is true: those processes are supported by machines so making sure the machines run optimally is key to meeting demand.

In this heavily regulated industry that is not keen to take perceived new risks, introducing new technology solutions can be slow. But machine health, which uses IoT and AI to predict and prevent machine failure and improve machine performance, has become a proven predictive maintenance solution for other manufacturing industries.

Yet, according to Pharma Manufacturing’s report “The true impact of machine failure in pharma,” 83% of pharma plants still rely on preventative maintenance approaches. Improving supply chain resiliency is crucial to the livelihood of companies and patients. It is time to reset and innovate — and that starts with machine health.

Data you can trust

Pharma companies are continuously collecting data to meet regulatory requirements. Lots of information is generated through electronic batch records, quality management systems and equipment performance. But in the case of machines, that data is generated after they fail or malfunction, giving teams no time to act on those insights.

Supply chain leaders were stress tested during COVID and found themselves being more reactive to their data instead of being guided by it. In order to see what’s going on across operations while maintaining the highest quality standards, now is the time to become more proactive and predictive with that information. There are many technologies that use words like ‘AI,’ ‘machine learning,’ and ‘insights.’ For data you can trust, you should consider the collection methods and strategies of each solution. Ideally, you want sensors that continuously monitor machines and a supportive ecosystem that interprets the data.

Once you select a machine health solution, you can quickly validate its impact by acting on the data you receive. Machines that do not run optimally or run to failure can cause inefficient planned maintenance, unplanned downtime and quality issues. Real-time machine health alerts tell you about failures before they happen and how to fix them. Acting on those insights and doing the necessary repairs can be quantified by the downtime hours, costs and material saved — proof that the technology works.

Insights for global teams

Innovation really comes down to making sure that the people involved are enabled to do their job in more meaningful ways. Many maintenance and reliability professionals spend too much time being reactive to machine issues. But mindsets are difficult to change, especially when teams have a set way of doing things. Luckily, machine health provides quick wins that can be shared throughout an organization, which can support the shift and get everyone on board. The supply chain is an ecosystem that starts with people — upskilling these teams with better reliability and maintenance programs create better jobs, higher level work and less wasteful processes.

With fewer machine failures, teams can use machine data to transition from calendar-based schedules to predictive maintenance, where higher-level work can be strategized and spare parts programs optimized. All of this leads to unlocking the capacity that is necessary for companies to get products to market at the highest quality.

Data can also be used to gain insights into specific machine uses across production lines and portfolios and can inform new production goals. Once you establish a machine health layer to your operations, you can leverage it to inform site and global teams to make strategic decisions that drive top- and bottom-line initiatives.

According to the previously mentioned Pharma Manufacturing report, close to 80% of executives said standardizing global maintenance and reliability programs were critical and important. Machine health has proven itself to be a game-changer for those looking to digitally transform and gain a competitive advantage.

If you’re looking to respond to today’s challenges by increasing your supply chain resiliency and ultimately achieving better patient outcomes, start with your machines.

About the Author

Zach Gilula | Team Leader, Pharmaceutical, Life Sciences and Medical Products, Augury