Digital transformation went from a popular corporate buzz phrase to an essential survival tool with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Industries ranging from banking and restaurants to travel and manufacturing had to re-invent their business models literally overnight.
Although the acceleration of digital adoption changed many industries for good, few saw as significant an evolution as the bio/pharmaceutical industry.
As a result, IT has not only gained center stage; it has become a significant business enabler and differentiator. The early needs of social distancing, remote work and even (for a time) off-site regulatory inspections have given way to a new era of collaboration, diversity and flexible production — all of which is occurring at a faster pace than ever before.
Although these changes continue to open exciting new doors for the industry — including more advanced applications for artificial intelligence (AI), analytics tools, long-distance training and the promise of precision medicine — they’ve also brought new needs and challenges, both for pharma companies and their clients.
Going forward, contract manufacturers and other pharma stakeholders will need to satisfy two critical demands when it comes to IT:
- Greater visibility throughout their supply chain operations.
- Improving operations by making them more adaptive and responsive.
Here’s a quick overview of key best practices that can help make these goals a reality, enabling contract manufacturers to better serve their customers while ensuring their peace of mind.
Establish IT Priorities
Before embarking on major IT investments, it’s important to have a clear vision of the capabilities and safeguards you will need to ensure smooth operations, data security and compliance. This was the process we pursued at Neuland, setting the following goals prior to our most recent round of upgrades:
- Full commitment to hybrid multi-cloud adoption
- SAP BPR, upgrades, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems
- Establishment of a data-driven digital enterprise with the adoption of AI and Big Data capabilities
- Digitization and intelligent automation initiatives to drive business growth
- Strengthen the organization’s cyber security posture by:
- Advancing XDR (enhanced detection and response) implementation
- SIEM and NSX (VMware’s Network Virtualization and Security Platform) implementations
- Adoption of a zero-trust framework
- Reinforce privacy to protect customers, clients, partners, and employees
- Build resilient IT operations with robust business continuity plans
- Enable remote quality audits with wearables and technology
Significant investments in IT are imperative for any pharma company that wants to compete in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace. A robust IT framework enables effective and seamless workflows – not only at individual sites, but offices, remote workplaces and operations worldwide. IT modernization also delivers benefits by making pharma organizations more cohesive and closely connected.
The pandemic has also forced a rethink of technology practices. One method of reducing disease transmission and limiting sterility issues was mandating the use of facial recognition, along with a temperature control system. After determining that this was the safest and fastest method of security, such systems were implemented across all Neuland locations.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) was also established for up to 90% of the organization to improve hybrid working and security. This enabled critical data to be stored safely in one central location while also enabling users to have convenient remote access.
Identifying a “single source of truth” (SSOT) can significantly improve management of master data. It’s the core process we use at Neuland to manage, centralize, and organize master data according to the business rules of the sales, marketing and the operational strategies of our company.
Better data quality delivers significant benefits in the form of improved business processes and greater efficiency, coupled with the elimination of manual processes — and the opportunities for human error that accompany them. All of these initiatives can reduce the workload on your team, which is a significant benefit as qualified talent becomes increasingly more difficult to find and retain. The adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) is also revolutionizing business operations by increasing productivity, enhancing accuracy and optimizing the use of resources in addition to the automation of the human process, response, and triggers.
At Neuland we’re also working on further improving resource management – including new strategies for planning, scheduling, and allocating resources to the right project at the right time to maximize customer profitability. The company recently undertook IFC automation to improve its governance process and implemented contract workforce management for all locations to efficiently manage the attendance and payroll of contractors.
Data protection and confidentiality are critical to any organization that works with innovator companies, especially in the pharmaceutical space. Regular vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) should be conducted for any business unit operating critical devices. This ensures the resilience of IT infrastructure while enabling identification of possible routes attackers could use to break into the company network. In addition, security information and event management (SIEM) provides advanced threat detection so they can be addressed.
Other Best Practices
As remote collaboration, big data, and other information-rich needs continue to expand, it’s difficult to imagine how any pharma company can have too much bandwidth. We recently doubled ours across all global locations. Other effective initiatives include the implementation of network monitoring tools, centralized cloud-based WiFi infrastructure, and using applications such as Barracuda to provide email, spam and phishing filters.