The magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting a slew of challenges before us. With over 200 countries fighting against the deadly virus, the pandemic has impacted almost all aspects of our lives. From governance and education to the global economy, COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented difficulties for all industrial sectors, particularly the pharma industry.
The need to develop a vaccine/medication to fight the ongoing pandemic, manufacturing it on a large scale, and mobilizing it globally, has put the pharma industry under tremendous pressure. On the global pharma front, India holds a prominent position thanks to its rapidly growing pharma sector. India boasts of being the world’s largest producer (by volume) of generic medicines, accounting for nearly 20% of the global pharma production by volume. In 2019, the Indian pharma market size was valued at USD 41 billion.
According to a 2015 McKinsey report, the Indian pharma industry is poised to grow from USD 12.6 billion (in 2009) to a market size of USD 55 billion by 2020.
Although the pandemic presents an opportune time for the Indian pharmaceutical industry to step up its game in automation, COVID-19 is certainly making it difficult to reach these numbers.
The post-COVID era: Challenges faced by the Pharma industry
Pharma companies are ever-grappling with manufacturing hurdles like shortened product pipelines, ever-increasing generic competition, growing compliance costs & regulations, complex process workflow, and patent expirations – all amid an uncertain economic climate. To add to these existing pressures, now pharma manufacturers are battling a global health and economic crisis. In the post-COVID world, pharma manufacturers are facing numerous challenges:
- Presently, manufacturing units are not functioning optimally or being utilized in their full capacity due to staff unavailability, tighter government policies, and rising inspections. These factors have given a massive blow to the routine manufacturing plant productivity, hampering the process workflow.
- India is heavily reliant on China for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). Bloomberg maintains that India imports a whopping 70% of APIs from China every year, standing at USD 2.4 billion of India’s total import spending of USD 3.56 billion.
- The pharma sector isn’t proactive in leveraging new-age technologies and utilizing digitization to its full capacity. For instance, the absence of seamless and fast data connectivity in the manufacturing units hampers workplace productivity. To date, many pharma companies rely on the pen-and-paper approach to maintain data records and manage the process flow at manufacturing units. Also, the absence of automation in the Pharmaceutical Industry makes it difficult to track employee productivity to ensure they meet their KRAs (Key Result Areas).
- The pharma supply chain is highly complex and strictly regulated compared to other industries. Since the supply chain comprises multiple suppliers spread across different locations, it demands close collaboration among suppliers. There’s also an urgent need to create end-to-end transparency in the supply chain.
Digitization to the rescue: How can Workforce Automation disrupt the Pharma sector?
As we mentioned earlier, manual processes and data management systems are prevalent in the pharma industry. This often leads to inaccuracies in data records and guesswork, further leading to erroneous results. Contrary to this, digital solutions can solve data challenges, increase employee productivity, create better inventory management, optimize process workflows, and enhance the customer-vendor experience.
Digitization is no longer optional – it is the mandatory norm of the modern age. One of the greatest obstacles to large-scale technological and digital adoption in the pharma industry is the high upfront cost. Be that as it may, what many pharma companies don’t realize is that in the long-run, digitization can save a ton of money, boost manufacturing plant productivity, reduce overall costs, and create a seamless process workflow.
Here’s how workforce automation can benefit the pharma industry:
1. It is an integrated solution
Workforce automation software is an integrated and centralized solution that allows you to manage your workforce’s productivity. It covers all workforce-related functions, such as scheduling employees, tracking employee availability slots, facilitating communication between staff & management, tracking employee time & attendance, processing payroll, etc.
2. It encourages employee collaboration
Drug development and manufacturing demand constant and cross-functional collaboration between teams. Employees from all departments, including operations, production, R&D, testing, quality assurance, quality control, etc., must work closely to ensure that products are of the highest quality and the target goal is met. Workforce automation software makes it possible for employees to communicate smoothly via desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
3. It is highly efficient
Workforce automation software is designed to reduce the amount of time and money spent on mundane and routine administrative tasks. Since most of the managerial tasks are either fully or semi-automated, your employees can focus on more critical tasks like streamlining resource acquisition, increasing production, quality testing, and R&D.
4. It eliminates staffing complexity
Pharma companies employ a large workforce. Naturally, managing a vast workforce is a herculean task. Workforce automation in the pharmaceutical industry can help overcome this by increasing coordination. You can create employee schedules, organize shifts, and categorize employees into different groups. Thus, when you create employee schedules, you can use filters like department, availability, role, and tags (skills, qualifications, certifications, etc.).
5. It enables intelligent decision-making
Workforce automation software allows for real-time data tracking and forecasting based on historical data. Not just that, it also offers automatic suggestions. For instance, a workforce automation app can depict your resource costs’ evolution, showing a comparison between targeted and estimated costs. These intelligent features promote informed decision making.
Although it may sound clichéd, desperate times call for “smart” measures. As we continue to make landmark progress in technology and digitization, it is only natural that the pharma industry should adopt digital solutions like workforce automation, robotic process automation, chatbots, and Business Intelligence (BI) tools. New-age technologies help optimize business processes. Plus, you can also customize them to fit your organization’s specific process workflows.
Thus, it is safe to conclude that digitization is the key to innovation in the post-COVID era.