What is Pharma 4.0?

Pharma 4.0 is used to describe the specific ways that industry 4.0 applies to the pharma manufacturing vertical. Like industry 4.0, it involves recent technological advances that include the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning (ML), and automation to drive holistic change across the industry.

Pharma 4.0 aims to bring new efficiency, productivity, and growth for dozens of use cases in the pharma industry. By combining the masses of data gathered by sensors with artificial intelligence (AI) and ML algorithms, and large networks of interconnected devices, pharma 4.0 enables smart devices that can communicate independently machine to machine (M2M).

This underpins autonomous production such as robotic process automation (RPA), where plant systems can complete workflows, spot emerging issues, diagnose them, and decide on and carry out a course of action to resolve them without human intervention. Smart plants produce and apply real-time data insights for improved OEE, better decision-making, and lower costs.

Why is Pharma 4.0 Important for Process Manufacturing Plants?

Smart devices are valuable for every manufacturing vertical, but they are particularly in demand for the pharma industry. Pharma plants often operate with low-profit margins, but quality standards are extremely high and recalls can be devastating. There’s no room for mistakes, and yet errors are hard to eliminate without the help of automated, smart processes.

Some use cases for pharma 4.0 include:

  • Digital analytics solutions that constantly monitor processes, equipment, and raw material quality to spot anomalies that could affect product quality before large amounts are affected.
  • Predictive monitoring and maintenance that detects the first signs of part failure to save money on repairs, extend equipment life cycle, and avoid production loss.
  • Real-time visibility into operations to reveal performance gaps, eliminate bottlenecks, and improve agility for last-minute changes in production.
  • Distributed, automated testing that shifts product quality checks upstream to detect and correct product quality and contamination before large batches are produced.
  • Integrated supply chain that enables full transparency into the quality and quantity of raw materials and ensures that completed product arrives in peak condition.
  • Smart glasses, digital twins, and augmented reality (AR) solutions that permit employees to “see” inside complex systems remotely for safer, faster diagnostics and repair.
  • Data-driven predictions that enable pharma companies to simulate different scenarios and model their impact, driving better decision making.
  • Autonomous production that removes human error and increases employee safety by reducing the need for employees to work in hazardous conditions.

How Can Process Plants Implement Pharma 4.0?

Set specific goals

Pharma 4.0 represents a wholescale transformation of plant culture, so when companies rush in they can quickly get overwhelmed and lose their way. It’s crucial to first identify the primary problems that need to be solved and which use cases will produce the most value.

Close digital skills gaps

A lack of digital talent is one of the main issues holding pharma plants back from realizing the benefits of pharma 4.0. Pharma companies need to map their existing skills to identify those that they lack, and introduce reskilling and upskilling programs alongside the recruitment drives.

Upgrade legacy infrastructure

Many pharma plants haven’t yet arrived at pharma 3.0, which means updating legacy equipment with computing and electronics tools, acquiring equipment that supports connectivity, digitizing plant processes, and removing silos between IT and operations departments.

Integrate data systems

As part of the move through pharma 3.0, plants need to update their data collection and storage strategy. It’s not enough just to generate the data; you also need to collect it in a single repository, ensure unified formatting, enable preprocessing for analysis, and automate the entire process.

How Do Process Plants Benefit from Pharma 4.0?

Pharma plants that embrace the potential of pharma 4.0 see a range of benefits across the board. With their newfound agility, improved awareness of changes in the market, and greater transparency into both the supply chain and the production process, pharma 4.0 companies can stay one step ahead of customer demands, reduce compliance issues, boost profit margins, and gain a competitive edge over their rivals.