8 MINS READ
Understanding the need for improved collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and contract manufacturers
Large pharmaceutical companies work with hundreds of external contract manufacturers to achieve fast and cost-effective drug manufacturing. They are looking to improve visibility, control, and standardization across the sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution value chain.
Contractors’ capabilities and the quality and price of their services rarely provide competitive advantage to pharmaceutical companies. To be competitive, pharmaceutical companies need to focus on customer service. Keeping this in focus, these companies are evolving their relationship with contract manufacturers from one-dimensional product outsourcing into comprehensive partnerships.
Moreover, pharmaceutical companies can leverage a platform that enables process improvements and digitalization, reducing manual efforts, enabling real-time visibility of data and processes, and establishing standardization and control over value chains.
These digital platforms can power intelligent value chain networks for improved time to market, superior customer service and increased revenue for pharma companies. What’s more, this platform-based transformation allows them to focus on their core business, especially research and development (R&D), clinical trials, and marketing, while trusting their relationship with contract manufacturers for fast and cost-effective drug manufacturing.
Strengthening partnerships with cloud-based platform solutions
Let’s look at six digital advancements that can transform the partnership between pharmaceutical companies and contract manufacturers for streamlined drug manufacturing and revenue growth:
1. Automate interactions using cloud platforms with machine learning (ML) services
Pharmaceutical companies and contractors engage in many non-standardized modes of interactions in the domains of quality and change management, manufacturing, logistics, finance, and technology transfer. Typically, this involves the exchange of many forms, reports, and documents throughout the manufacturing value chain.
For efficient interactions, companies can leverage a cloud platform with ML services to enable intelligent content extraction and digital document processing (see figure 2). This will help extract highly relevant information for various use cases, reducing manual efforts, improving quality and data integration to standardize interactions for enhanced partnerships with contract manufacturers.
2. Break process, data, and system silos using process orchestration on cloud platforms
Pharma companies interact with partners and contractors through function-based siloed processes, systems, and data. To break these silos, they can use a centralized, cloud-based platform with automation, orchestration, and visualization capabilities for process interactions across their functions and with external contract manufacturers.
This allows personas such as supply chain managers, procurement and logistics heads, and quality approvers of pharmaceutical companies to collaborate both internally within their organization and externally with members of the contract manufacturer organization.
3. Manage operational complexity using 5G, edge computing, and cloud platforms
Operational complexities in drug manufacturing are on the rise due to which value from siloed operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) stacks are yet to be fully realized. With the growth of hardware and software that are embedded in the ecosystem, such as smart connected devices, pharmaceutical companies are facing challenges in scaling digital transformation pilots and undertaking complex workarounds that include detailed spreadsheets and time-consuming manual activities.
Cloud, edge computing, and 5G technologies-enabled platforms can accelerate the convergence of OT and IT, boost innovation, and manage this complexity to achieve the desired operational and financial benefits from the Industry 4.0 revolution.
4. Enable accurate technology transfers using augmented and virtual reality cloud platforms
Technology transfers refer to a series of knowledge transfers from pharmaceutical companies to contract manufacturers on drugs and its established manufacturing processes. These transfers are becoming increasingly difficult for pharma companies due to process and product complexities, and the use of documented standard operating procedures (SOPs) and work instructions. Moreover, disconnected workers and prevalent documentation-based knowledge sharing, tracking, and validation processes result in inaccurate or insufficient technology transfers, delaying drug production.
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and digital workflow-enabled solutions that are interconnected with cloud platforms allow workers to interact through digital overlays on equipment, eliminating paper-based instructions, and recording, tracking, review, and validation of data.
5. Enhance transparency using API and analytics cloud platforms
Pharmaceutical companies need greater visibility and control over the quality of drug production processes of contract manufacturers. In pharma and medical device manufacturing, it is extremely challenging to monitor, visualize, and control the value chain from suppliers to patients to ensure drug quality.
For example, monitoring and controlling the variations in raw material and manufacturing processes is difficult due to disparate processes and widely dispersed data. Additionally, manual activities and asynchronous communication channels such as emails and online chats further complicate the problem of visibility and control. Cloud-based collaboration platforms with API connectivity and near real-time analytics capabilities can help gain transparency and control over the quality of drugs.
6. Improve data exchange using cloud data platforms
Due to legacy data-sharing establishments or discrete data models, companies are at a disadvantage because it hampers innovation, time to market, and revenue growth. To overcome these challenges, pharma companies can utilize cloud-based platforms with APIs, integration, and automation capabilities to connect an ecosystem of applications, data, and devices.
Furthermore, they can use cloud as a data enabler and accelerator with the use of case-specific cloud-enabled architecture archetypes—data lakes, cloud-native data warehouse, data mesh, and data fabric.
Steps pharmaceutical companies should take to improve collaborations with contract manufacturers
Pharmaceutical companies need to take four key measures that cover all aspects from the initial business case to continuous improvement of partnerships with contract manufacturers:
Pharma companies can then get started (see figure 3) to successfully deploy an ecosystem of managed cloud platforms that enhance pharma-contract manufacturer collaborations.
Stage 1: Pilot
Run a pilot program with 2-3 contract manufacturers to build a cloud platform that supports use cases to enable digital collaboration.
Stage 2: Scale up
Industrialize the cloud platform and operations, onboarding more contract manufacturers to the cloud platform for enhanced partnership.