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Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru June 22 , 2022
The Indian pharma industry must adopt technology and automation without delay.  New tools and processes are enabling smart decentralized production with intelligent factories, integrated platform technologies and flexible manufacturing systems, said Kaushik Desai, advisor, Indian Pharma Machinery Manufacturers Association (IPMMA).

The 5 digital technology trends in life sciences sector are artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), data integration platforms, cloud content management and information security.

Pharma 4.0 is evolving slowly and steadily. The architecture of plant floor applications such as MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), scheduling, maintenance, quality, automation, and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) provide the agility manufacturers need. Companies which implement digitalization and automation will be better prepared to navigate a more resilient and profitable pathway, he added.

"When we think of new technology, the first thing that comes to our mind is automation, followed by digitization which leads to the buzzword Pharma 4.0. New technology also deals with new dosage forms, novel drug delivery systems, biosimilars, nanotechnology, mouth dissolving films and so on,” said Desai at a recently concluded event titled Technology and Automation -Futuristic Scenarios' held at the Bengaluru roadshow of the Pharma Pro & Pack Expo, analytica Anacon India and India Lab Expo to be held in Hyderabad from September 15 to 17, 2022.

Technological evolution is taking place at a much faster pace. Pharma industry is looking at increased output, improving physical processes through automation by harnessing the power of digitized data to drive efficiency improvements across value chain, he said.

“We have already witnessed the success of digital manufacturing technologies helping Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers fizer and Moderna to accelerate technology transfer and production processes. For instance, Moderna successfully transferred technology to its contract site, Lonza using process automation systems and MES,” noted Desai.

Digital transformation is no longer optional but a necessity. The pandemic saw technology to allow remote operations with real-time autonomous analysis. Quoting the Statista 2022 report, he said, by 2025, global digital transformation spending is forecast to reach US$ 2.8 trillion.

Use of augmented reality/virtual reality, remote FAT (factory acceptance test) based on internet cloud service for installation, facility tour, inspections, audits has become an acceptable practice in many developed countries and India has also made some strides in this area. Regulatory agencies like US FDA implement 'Remote Interactive Evaluation of Facilities’. Although the pandemic phase of 2020-21 saw a fall in US FDA inspections, it was still a record year for the number of Form 483 observations issued to pharma companies for inadequately controlling their digital systems and data, noted Desai. 

Pharma and its machinery sector will have to gear up and upgrade skills and re-strategize their operations. The leaders in the modern pharmaceutical industry are those who embrace and adapt to change. Digital transformation is imperative. Therefore digitization and automation is not the future, it is actually the present which will shape the time ahead, said Desai.

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