Pharma Operations 4.0: The Making of a Digital-Native Organisation

Geena Malhotra

October 14, 2020

For innovative approaches to functions, we must leverage the strength of data and empower the system with new-age tools. At Cipla, we have learnt several lessons while rediscovering strengths through improved operations. I recently spoke about our digital transformation at the India Inc- On the Move virtual summit.

Operational excellence is imperative, when you are anchored by the organisational purpose of #CaringforLife. Today, digital-analytics and automation control process-optimization and resource-utilization in operations. The automobile, banking and retail industries have fronted the adoption of new-age technologies like IoT, AR, MR, VR and advanced production-methods. We saw these as opportunities but pharma has had to bide it’s time to learn from others and ensure that every step-change guarantees patient-safety. As industry-pioneers, at Cipla, we’ve been on a mission of transforming our way of working using technology for many years. Today, COVID-19 has accelerated everything.

Seamless production in factories of the future requires interconnected and touchless operations across manufacturing and supply-chains. Therefore, we started building a digital-native organization with employees re-skilled to create a future-proof technology-stack. Over time, we have built a scalable digital-backbone for product and process robustness. Data is being leveraged for improvements like shorter batch-record review-durations, and response time optimization using real-time data that flags early warning-signals. We have started in-silico modelling for drug-manufacturing, and are using computational-fluid-dynamics for drug-device-development and equipment-selection. Through analytics, our process-automation will keep improving and mining data. Finally, clear-visioned planning, monitoring and sustained efforts are crucial for transformative results.

Nothing happens in a day. Ambitious process-upgradations require multi-year commitments. We started by focusing on understanding the breadth of the need and conducted workshops for goal-setting and next-steps. In conclusion, sharing 8 learnings from our experiences so far.

  1. Commit investments and concretize contracts to avoid any de-railers mid-way
  2. Be persistent and bold
  3. Don’t wait for 'greenfield' facilities to start. Real values are unlocked in existing facilities
  4. Focus on establishing a proof-of-concept. This creates excitement and pull
  5. Maintain a strong value-backed view for every investment and initiative
  6. Have a dedicated team to drive large-scale efforts
  7. Balance between new recruitments and re-skilling the existing workforce but do involve external partner-advisors. Their experience is indispensable since trial-and-error is very costly
  8. Take along people 'on the fence'

Above all, share your learnings. Inspire others to #reimagine their capabilities because when individuals grow together, it pushes an industry forward.

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