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Jennifer Markarian is manufacturing editor of BioPharm International.
Automation and tools for remote monitoring are finding increased use as pharmaceutical manufacturing adapts to pandemic restrictions.
The bio/pharmaceutical industry has been talking about Industry 4.0 and digitalization for many years, and commercial use of automation and data analysis tools has been making progress. The sudden pandemic-related travel and business restrictions, however, have driven more rapid adoption of technologies such as in-silico modeling, digital twins, remote acceptance testing, virtual and augmented reality tools, and other digital solutions.
Bikash Chatterjee, CEO of Pharmatech Associates, points out that the pandemic situation is driving the pharma industry to adopt the tools it has been talking about for more than a decade. Pamela Docherty, Life Sciences industry manager at Siemens, adds that her company saw an immediate uptake of digital tools when R&D personnel were restricted from accessing their laboratories, and that in-silico modeling tools allowed them to continue their experiments virtually.
When travel shut down, equipment suppliers introduced remote factory acceptance testing (FAT). IMA, for example, instituted virtual FATs in which customers could witness by video as the IMA engineers performed tests (1). Companies supplying virtual and augmented reality tools were able to step in to provide solutions. Apprentice.io, for example, deployed its smart glasses and Tandem technology platform to pharma manufacturers and their suppliers; the tools facilitated tech transfer, facility tours, and acceptance testing (2). API manufacturer Cambrex noted that digital tools allowed employees to operate remotely and internal and external audits to continue for both client and regulatory audits (3).
Digital tools will continue to benefit pharma manufacturing operations after the pandemic restrictions are in the past. On Nov. 11, 2020, Pharmaceutical Technology will host a panel discussion on digitalization that looks at using real-time monitoring and artificial intelligence to optimize manufacturing operations. Chatterjee and Docherty will be part of the panel, along with Amos Dor, general manager of the Pharma Team in the Automation Products Group at Applied Materials, and Bob Lenich, global life sciences director at Emerson. To listen to the discussion, register for the 2020 Bio/Pharma Virtual Congress.