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In The Race To Find A COVID-19 Drug, Is Manufacturing Holding Back Progress?

Pharmaceutical manufacturers will need to ramp-up production capacity if they are to find a treatment for the current pandemic, but how?

Here Keith Tilley, CEO, Intoware explains how workflow technology can help improve manufacturing efficiency and compliance.

The COVID-19 pandemic may prove to be the greatest challenge since World War II, with our healthcare system stretched to the absolute limit. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are under immense pressure to find new treatments and ultimately, develop a vaccine against this virus.

The response from pharma and biotech companies to finding a COVID-19 treatment has led to more than 1,000 clinical trials with over 150 treatments being tested. This is impressive given the virus was only discovered on the 31st December 2019. But the on-going challenge remains, how to boost production efficiency as new treatments are found?

Prior to the pandemic we had seen increased interest at www.intoware.com from pharma manufacturers in our automation platform WorkfloPlus to help digitise their production processes. Since in our experience the challenge faced by many manufacturers is that they still rely on spreadsheets, word documents or even paper to complete tasks.

This may seem fine, but it fails to offer the accuracy or granularity that can be gained through digitising manufacturing operations. Imagine being able to see for example, how long each task really takes; taking photos or videos to record information in real-time; accessing a process by scanning a barcode or calling for live-help if things need attention – all through a simple mobile device or headset.

Ensuring compliance

Intoware developed WorkfloPlus to help digitise workflow processes that need to be followed using both mobile and augmented reality technology. In doing so it ensures that a process can be consistently followed, audited and provides the necessary data analytics to ensure compliance – ideal for highly regulated industries such as pharmaceutical.

WorkfloPlus ensures better compliance by providing a thorough audit trail of ‘who did what and when’, by cataloguing every decision point and action in manufacturing operations so there are fewer errors and at the same time it enables improved productivity. But what happens if the manufacturing landscape were to change quickly?

A single source of truth

The speed of change is rapid too, a change to the business process is sent to all users instantly, providing a “single source of truth”, it’s not sent as a paper trail, so everyone is working off the same version. This means it’s easier to schedule downtime and manage production demands as things change. But if you’re relying on spreadsheets or written notes, this change could take many hours and be inconsistent.

Where humans are involved, errors too cannot be totally eliminated, but you can significantly de-risk your operation through automation and of course if you have the audit trail that allows users to analyse the data at a granular level you can make further enhancements to reduce risks.

Ultimately, workflow automation removes paper-based processes, improves communications and collaboration to help free manufacturers from silo-based processes that are the result of ad-hoc systems.

Here is an example of a forward-thinking pharma company, Bayer Pharmaceuticals that has tested and is now deploying WorkfloPlus with HMT headsets from Realwear to help streamline its production change over process, in what is a highly regulated market.

Drug manufacturing operation requires regular cleaning and change overs between each batch, by using WorkfloPlus it allows this procedure to be taken in a constant and timely manner, to help minimise “down-time” for greater cost efficiency, while at the same time it provides a thorough audit check that a manual ‘tick-list’ could never deliver.

Summary

Whether it’s inefficient processes or poor compliance thanks to a reliance on ad-hoc systems, these are just some of the issues holding pharmaceutical manufacturing back from achieving the capacity needed to counter this pandemic – so the question should not be whether to automate, but when?

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