Putting Together the Pieces - Pharmaceutical Technology

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PharmTech Europe

Putting Together the Pieces
Several strategies and software applications help pharmaceutical companies integrate their manufacturing execution systems and enterprise resource planning systems

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 32, Issue 10, pp. 40-46

If a company's MES and ERP systems were integrated, then "all of the systems would be looking at the same inventory without having to worry about ownership," as Kenney points out. "The question of which package owns the inventory indicates that the integration is not where it could be."

Wyeth used a collaborative strategy to avoid the problem of managing various manufacturing plants with different products and processes. Leinbach explains that, before adopting MES, representatives from the company's various sites met with an MES vendor and a corporate project team to develop a standard set of user requirements to be deployed across Wyeth's entire supply chain. Although each site has different products and processes, each plant could incorporate the common user requirement specification (URS) according to its specific purposes. Thus, in addition to the common URS, each of Wyeth's facilities had a site-specific URS that described its local functionality. With this strategy, the company achieved a standard MES model that it adopted rapidly at many of its sites.

Variable recipes. Integrating MES and ERP systems can bring flexibility to production processes. Rather than establishing complete master recipes that include all the specifications for each product, a company could create recipes that contained variables. If the ERP system contains a master list of variables and their acceptable value ranges, the enterprise level could send an order to MES that defines the variables, thus selecting the product to be manufactured. This arrangement would eliminate the need to create a new recipe in MES for each new product.

If a company wants centralized maintenance of its master data or if its products are familiar and established, this would be a good solution. Likewise, if equipment operation remained consistent, this strategy could also facilitate personalized medicine and order-based manufacturing.

But keeping a master list of variables and alternate values on the enterprise level would make data management more complex. Managing such a repository would require knowledge of all recipes, and changing one parameter might affect many recipes. This arrangement could make for a complex validation process.


Integrating an MES and an ERP system is no simple task. It requires pharmaceutical companies to know their facilities and equipment, understand various software applications, and have the skill to create custom interfaces to facilitate integration.

Yet software vendors and users all acknowledge that integration has gotten easier through time. Manufacturing technology has improved, vendors' solutions have evolved, and pharmaceutical professionals have become more software-savvy. The industry has benefited from this progress, and drugmakers are optimistic that MES–ERP system integration will become even simpler, and provide even greater benefits, in the near future.

For more on this topic, see Integration the Easy Way


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