Future-Proofing The Pharma Supply Chain – Top Ten Trends

The pharma sector happens to be consistently evolving, and one of the most critical components of transformation is within the supply chain. The significance of a well-operational supply chain has never been more relevant than in the current years. It is well to be noted that a geopolitical conflict, pandemic, rise in costs, and uncertain availability have all had a great deal of implication across pharma organisations.

As we step into the future, the sector has to continue to embrace new tech with regulations as well as practise. Let us look into the top 10 trends that happen to shape the pharmaceutical supply chain and dive deep into how they are impacting the future of the sector.

Industry Clouds

In common, industry clouds happen to be industry-context cloud services, tools, and applications that are optimised for the most prominent use cases in that specific sector. The pharma sector is also feeling competitive pressure from startups as well as cloud-native disrupters. Industry clouds contextualise the offerings from the cloud and thereby eliminate risky, time-consuming, and costly endeavours.

They have the capacity to speed up and also take the risk out of the cloud migrations by offering them APIs, including applications that are industry-specific, accelerators of solutions, and a platform marketplace coming from third-party partner solutions, so as to work with the industry cloud platform. Apparently, leading pharma organisations are wanting to go ahead with industry clouds so as to make sure that strategic workload movement is accelerated in order to address numerous problem areas, such as:

  • Orchestration platforms and control towers of the supply chain
  • ERP within the cloud
  • MES solution that’s cloud-based
  • Quality control as well as labs

Digital Ecosystems

As per research, in the next two years of time, due to susceptible worldwide conditions, 75% of the business leaders will make use of the digital platforms as well as ecosystem capabilities so as to adapt to the value chains in the new markets, ecosystems, and also industries.

Pharma firms have the option to tap 70% of the new value that is being created in the next decade by way of these digital ecosystems as well as platform business models.

Above 50% of the companies are already anticipating to intensify their partnership models along with other sector players by way of JVs, service agreements, or ecosystems. There are some that are already in motion. And by the way, this isn’t just a trend when it comes to the big pharma companies but also with biotech’s as well. Venture capitalists have gone on to invest more than $35 billion in biotech firms with advanced platform technologies because they feel that this is going to transform the sector.

The major trends that are going to help them get there are going to be Web3, decentralisation constructs, and data platforms.

Generative AI

AI is shifting industries across the board, and the pharma sector is no different. The use of AI in this sector has gone on to have a profound effect, from drug delivery to clinical trials.

It is well to be noted that now pharma companies are making use of generative AI approaches such as ChatGPT, GPT-4, as well as BioGPT so as to democratise AI with LLMs. These large language models are going to be creating a more human-like experiences that help ease the burden of sharing with technologies and processes that are complex. Apparently, the early evidence is giving out robust productivity gains that, at the end of the day, enhance business efficiencies, reduce costs, and help with more predictions in the supply chains.

Recent research has identified more than 270 companies operating in AI-driven drug exploration. These happen to include biopharma companies that are traditional and also small AI-led startups. As a matter of fact, it is expected that more than 30% of the new drugs can be explored by way of using generative AI solutions by 2025.

By making use of generative AI, pharma setups are able to go ahead with more precise predictions, enhance the inventory management, and at the same time reduce lead times. Apart from this, generative AI is also being used to optimise the process of production, thereby reducing the lead time and the resources that are required so as to manufacture medications. Due to this, pharma companies happen to be better equipped to get to the patient’s needs and thereby deliver treatments in an efficient manner.

Autonomous Supply Chains and Lights-Out Manufacturing

It is well worth noting that autonomous supply chain planning helps pharma companies to be swifter as well as more competitive. An AI-led approach to planning ensures supply chain visibility activity and also allows for forecasting of future events. This also begins by creating a data strategy, which goes on to directly address the availability of data, its access, and quality, and also leverage tech so as to eradicate unstructured as well as manual data entry.

Lights-out manufacturing happens to be vital so as to enable the machines to run autonomously with the entire process of production. These smart factories happen to have the potential for manufacturing cost reduction between 15 and 30%, manpower reduction between 50 and 70%, power consumption reduction of 40%, lesser product deviation by 50%, and a smaller footprint between 50 and 70%.

ESG Practises Related To Consumer and Government Demand

With manufacturing going on with contributing more than 20% of the carbon dioxide emissions throughout the US, the pharma sector is facing elevated pressure so as to come up with a plan for how their respective organisations are going to address social as well as environmental issues.

Integration when it comes to the broader supply chain network of core suppliers, CMOs, and manufacturing will be required to elevate visibility into the problems and how to get rid of them. Apparently, organisations are collaborating with the Carbon Reduction in Manufacturing Initiative in order to accelerate the elimination of worldwide emissions across the sector. For the pharma sector, so as to move ahead, they will indeed have to embrace ESG within the supply chain strategies as a requirement that is foundational.

Advancing Modalities Demand Technological Innovations

The drug modality landscape has evolved significantly, with new types promising better patient outcomes. Each modality requires specialized technologies for manufacturing. In this context, technologies like cloud computing, edge computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), low-code tools, and security platforms are generally applicable across different modalities. Nevertheless, the spotlight will be on the unique technology requirements for each modality:

  • Biologics: To meet the growing biologics market, manufacturing will need single-use bioreactors, advanced purification systems, continuous manufacturing, and real-time temperature monitoring.
  • Gene Therapies: The gene therapy market demands closed-system bioreactors, gene editing tools like CRISPR, robotic handling systems, cryopreservation, and process monitoring.
  • mRNA: The emerging mRNA modality requires specialized synthesis platforms, cold chain logistics, lipid nanoparticle formulation technologies, and large-scale production capabilities.

Embracing Composability as a Fundamental Requirement

Pharmaceutical supply chains are crucial for providing timely access to life-saving medications worldwide. However, they face challenges due to complexity and lack of agility. Leading companies adopt a composable business approach for autonomy, agility, predictive insights, partner and customer orchestration, and resilience.

Key technologies enabling a composable business include Platform-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud modularity, event-driven micro-services for a modular architecture, and blockchain for trust and interoperability among supply chain partners.

Heightened Focus on Cybersecurity Amid Disruptions

The rising cost of cybercrime poses a major threat to pharmaceutical organizations. Intellectual property cyber theft alone has resulted in a loss of $14 billion. Software supply chain attacks are considered the most significant cyber threat by 84% of companies worldwide in the next 24 months. To respond, pharma organizations must prioritize cybersecurity strategies, including risk assessments, adopting frameworks like NIST, data classification, policy enforcement, and continuous monitoring. Addressing human error is crucial, as it accounts for 95% of successful cyberattacks. Talent acquisition and cybersecurity training are essential to enhance overall security.

Embracing Immersive Experiences for Efficiency and Innovation

The pharmaceutical industry is harnessing the transformative potential of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) as well as mixed reality, within the supply chain and manufacturing operations. Integrating these immersive solutions is resulting in increased efficiency, productivity, and innovation.

Pharmaceutical companies are leveraging immersive experience technologies in various ways:

  • Enhanced Training: VR simulations provide realistic hands-on experiences for employees, reducing risks in sterile environments (e.g., Novartis).
  • Streamlined Processes: AR overlays real-time data, instructions, and guidelines onto physical environments, optimizing warehousing and order fulfillment, as seen at Pfizer.
  • Remote Collaboration: MR technologies enable remote support for geographically dispersed teams, as utilized by Johnson & Johnson in manufacturing operations.
  • Quality Assurance: Immersive technologies aid real-time monitoring and data analysis during manufacturing, enhancing inspections and error detection (e.g., Merck).
  • Continuous Innovation: VR simulations foster a culture of innovation by enabling new manufacturing techniques without physical prototyping (e.g., AstraZeneca).

Digital Twins Driving Pharma 4.0 Transformation

Pharmaceutical companies are investing in digital twins to gain visibility, simulate manufacturing processes, prevent issues, and optimize production to reduce costs. The digital twin market is anticipated to grow by 27% over the next seven years, reaching $1.2 billion in 2030.

Some benefits of adopting digital twins include:

Reduced Time to Market: Digital twins simulate manufacturing processes, identify bottlenecks, and expedite R&D to commercialization.

  • Increased Yield: Predictive capabilities optimize manufacturing for higher yield, reducing costs and improving profitability.
  • Improved Operational Efficiency: Digital twins identify waste, leading to continuous process improvement for enhanced efficiency and profitability.
  • Enhanced Supply Chain Management: Anticipating risks and proactive measures in complex supply chains; early adopters report up to 5% inventory reduction and 10% capex reduction.