Connectivity with the Internet of Things (IoT) has increasingly become the norm in a number of industrial sectors, but the technology currently remains underutilised in the pharmaceutical industry. Here we explain how digital services can add value to the pharmaceutical production process.
Over time, the high-risk nature of the pharmaceutical industry has created an understandable trust in traditional processes, and a corresponding hesitancy to embrace newer methods of working. In the context of equipment maintenance and service, this hesitancy has broadly been manifested as a reliance on existing monitoring arrangements and an unwillingness to streamline monitoring with technological assistance.
However, the most frequent justification for this reticence – that of the perceived security risks associated with IoT – is largely misplaced given technology companies’ acute awareness of the need for digital security in industrial applications. Organisations therefore have to be careful to ensure that an institutionalised aversion to IoT does not obscure the tangible economic and practical benefits which can be generated by its use. According to recent estimates, the value of IoT technology in the pharmaceutical industry is projected to reach £1.7bn during the course of 2020, up from £300m as recently as 2015.
This economic benefit to pharmaceutical manufacturers is rooted in the practical advantages IoT can offer in the production process. Vital systems such as water treatment, purified water, and wastewater treatment machinery can be equipped with a variety of instruments – flow monitors, pressure gauges, conductivity sensors – each designed to accurately monitor a host of metrics ranging from the chemical composition of water output to the mechanical health of the equipment itself. Connected in real time to a suitable monitoring software platform, this information can give pharmaceutical manufacturers a more accurate understanding of critical production facilities.
Equipped with this knowledge, manufacturers can transition from reactive to proactive maintenance, and enjoy vital business benefits: reduced downtime, reduced waste from spoiled batches of product, and optimised maintenance costs.
Indeed, in contrast to these tangible advantages of innovation, an unwillingness to develop new methods due to perceived risks can generate actual risk for both the manufacturer and the end user. The consequences of unscheduled downtime or asset degradation can be severe, with an economic and potential human cost attached to production being interrupted or quality control being compromised. Equally, emergency repairs will always be more costly than those which can be planned in advance.
Veolia Water Technology UK’s (VWT UK) own AQUAVISTA™ platform embodies many of the advantages which the broader IoT field offers for the industry. The cloud-based, fully secure AQUAVISTA™ Portal allows manufacturers to monitor equipment health data remotely, without the need for concern about the threat of a cyber attack, data theft, or fabrication. TLS encryption and secure network infrastructure ensure that digital systems are protected from intrusion. At the same time, AQUAVISTA™ Assist offers manufacturers access to VWT UK’s own team of expert engineers, who can offer remote analysis, support, and technical assistance to make the most of the data generated by the system.
The take-up of IoT in other industries should act as an indication of the significant advantages available to companies who embrace technology in their processes. By utilising digital services, pharmaceutical companies can work effectively with water technology experts to reduce waste and unexpected downtime - and optimise maintenance costs which should save companies substantial OPEX costs.
For more information on AQUAVISTA™, contact one of our experts below.
About the Author
Ranj Rihal started as an internal sales engineer for the export department in the early 90's and within a couple of years he was prompted to Project engineer, concentrating on packaged desalination systems. Thereafter with the company moving under US Filter, he concentrated on Project Managing pharmaceutical purified and WFI water systems. In the late 90's he moved into the role of a Senior Design Sales Engineer, producing proposals for all markets initially then concentrating on the Pharmaceutical market. In 2007 he moved into the Pharmaceutical Competence centre supporting the global VWT business units (BUs). The role evolved onto his present position of developing the pharma market globally by supporting all of the VWT BU's in both developed and developing regions.