IoT Could Make a Difference in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Supply Chains

Published on 29 Mar, 2017

The digitization of data and processes across the value chain coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT) could transform the pharmaceutical industry. 

Besides healthcare record collection and analysis, IoT has the potential to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry in everything from  drug discovery to remote patient monitoring and access.

The growing use of sensors on the production floor has enabled the aggregation of data over multiple departments and across manufacturing plants distributed globally. Referred to as the Internet of Things for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (IoT-PM), this has the power to radically change how pharmaceutical manufacturing plants operate. It allows manufacturing activities to be supervised from any location at any point of time. Real-time monitoring enables minimizing waste, increasing equipment utilization, and lowering production costs.

Some of the applications for IoT in the pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chains include:

  • Smart serialization through AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Capturing), which involves automatically identifying objects, collecting information and feeding it into the computer system, all done sans human involvement.
  • Real-time logistics visibility using RFID & sensors to capture and report parameters.
  • Smart warehousing and routing.
  • Predictive maintenance of machines & equipment.
  • Customized Medicine.
  • 3D Printed Drugs.

A recent example of the implementation of IoT in the pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chain is how Apotex, a Canadian pharmaceutical manufacturer, improved its manufacturing processes through automation. Tools such as automated guided vehicles, RFID tracking, sorting and process-flow tracking enabled the company to ensure consistent batch production. This gave the company real-time visibility into their manufacturing operations, increasing productivity and improving the bottom-line.

Another example of IoT in the pharmaceutical manufacturing value chain is SMARTpack, an IoT-enabled product developed by UK-based Eurosoft Systems Ltd. (ESL). The product offers smart packaging, asset tracking, and counterfeit protection. End-to-end asset tracking through SMARTpack ensures the product isn’t tampered with in transit from the manufacturer to the patient. This offers the manufacturer the ability to mitigate reputational risks, ensuring cost savings by averting lawsuits.

IoT may be in its nascent stages of development, but its eventual impact across the global healthcare space is indisputable.

A diverse range of applications will allow IoT to shift the industry toward an affordable, accessible, and quality healthcare ecosystem.