Chemical and Pharma: Unlock your digital enterprise

Find out how these experts are setting the pace of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry drive towards digitalisation.

The Made Smarter Review sets out a roadmap for the wide scale adoption of industrial digitalisation technologies in order to boost productivity, create more high value jobs and support economic prosperity.


As part of ongoing support for its industrial customers, Siemens hosted an event, ‘Process Industries Made Smarter’, targeted specifically at the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.


The event, held at The Vox in Birmingham, brought together leading sector businesses, trade associations, opinion formers and other stakeholders to debate some of the key issues around digitalisation and share experiences of digital journeys to date.


Mike Houghton, Managing Director of Siemens Process Industries and Drives, opened the event with a summary of the main recommendations from the Made Smarter Review and set out the case for why the UK’s manufacturing base has to embrace digital technologies in order tackle the threat of global competition. He commented: “The widespread adoption of industrial digital technologies is set to boost productivity by 25%, aiding economic prosperity and providing the UK’s manufacturing base with a real competitive edge.”


He shared his experience as the newly appointed chair of a Process Industries and Engineering Advisory Group to advise the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Trade and Investment, and his clear belief that Government and industry need to work closely to make the most of what digitalisation and emerging technologies can offer.


A panel debate with representatives from The Chemical Association (CIA), Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, highlighted some of the practical benefits digitalisation delivers.  Examples included, continuous productivity enhancements, simulation to aid process and plant design, quicker product development and time to market, better control of processes, the strategic use of data, supply chain integration and, with specific reference to pharmaceutical, the ability to deliver a better patient experience through the manufacture and use of personalised medicines.


The panel acknowledged specific issues connected to the chemicals sector as it seeks to shed its conservative outlook and deal with legacy production sites, an ageing workforce, the need to attract new talent and high hazard operations.  However, the CIA reiterated that it is already working closely with government to address these important factors and that initiatives such as its Future Forum are designed to entice new talent to the sector with a stimulating and rewarding career.

Finally, the panel agreed about the critical need to deliver standards around data and that standardisation will be important for all looking to a digital future.


In the pharmaceutical stream, presentations were delivered by GSK, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, CMAC, GEA Group, Sartorius and PSE together with the ISPE and Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP).


ISPE outlined recommendations on ways the industry can further embrace digitalisation bringing together resources, information systems, culture, and organisation and processes required for Pharma 4.0.


By bringing together the above elements, this collaborative approach will further lead to acceptance of new operating models in life science companies, leading to the development and implementation of holistic control strategies that empower life science processes to become adaptive and controlled, driving the sector into the digital era.


This sentiment was further echoed by the MMIP, an organisation set up jointly by Pharma and UK Government to ensure the UK is recognised as a world class, advanced centre for medicines manufacturing. MMIP outlined its technology roadmap, of which digitalisation is an essential pillar. Exploring the future of the industry, it discussed how connecting medicines to provide patient-level information would further enhance compliance and provide feedback / diagnostics to deliver a truly digital healthcare ecosystem.


Commentating on its own digitalisation journey, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies outlined the rationale behind its vision to create one unified control system platform across all plant areas to deliver increased reliability. This vision led to the rationale to build the site-wide platform based on SIMATIC PCS 7, using advanced process library blocks where possible to reduce the requalification process for updates. The extended project, which was co-delivered by Siemens and Sartorius was initially introduced on a remodelled existing facility, before being introduced to the plant.


Under the theme of continuous manufacturing, GEA Group delivered a presentation which looked at how this manufacturing process is already aligned with digitalisation, allowing products to be brought to market faster, while also using a less active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).


As part of this ongoing journey, GEA explained the role of continuous manufacturing opening up the flexibility of a multi-process line for use with any API. With data a key theme across the industry at present, GEA went on to discuss how a significant amount of data is produced with continuous manufacturing. This data can then be used for advanced process control to adjust processing parameters for the material being managed at that time. In addition, data collected here can also be used to track and adapt to material characteristics to deliver pharmaceutical manufacturers with increased transparency further enhancing productivity and efficiency gains.


In summary, while the pharmaceutical industry is already making significant strides towards its digital future, in order to further enhance this, manufacturers, industry bodies and government must align further, ensuring the digital transformation of the sector gathers more pace in the race against time.


Presentations were made by BOC-Linde, BASF and Hosokawa Micron, in addition to The Chemicals Industry Association and Bentley Systems.


The sector’s trade association, whose membership accounts for 70% of production within the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, said that threats such as the uncertainty around Brexit, the cost of energy, inward investment levels, cyber security concerns and the ageing workforce could only be overcome with a coherent and widely adopted industrial strategy, with digitalisation at its centre.


Positively, it is reported that four out of five chemical companies are increasing spend on digital technologies, such as cloud computing, data analytics and visualisation, which are influencing key areas including product quality and operational efficiencies and productivity.


As part of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), the spotlight is on the chemicals sector and security remains a top priority.  This is further highlighted because of the legacy plant issues where a lack of standardisation across business systems dominate, providing the potential for security gaps and cyber-attack.


In summary, digitalisation is increasingly being embraced by the chemicals sector, where the integration of data is driving improvements, but more needs to be done.  There is a real opportunity to accelerate industrial digital technology adoption as highlighted in the Made Smarter review for chemical companies, who can learn from other sectors that are further down the line.


The Head of Digital at BOC-Linde articulated his vision that companies should not just use digitalisation as a way to do the things they already do better.  Businesses should be more ambitious and the real prize lies in the potential to move away from current business models and develop new ones. Digitalisation offers such opportunities.  His advice was to start with a small project, obtain proven success and engage with employees to ignite their enthusiasm.


This view is shared by leading contract processing company, Hosokawa Micron Ltd, which is embarking on its own digital journey and has used digitalisation to create Hosokawa GEN4. GEN4 delivers a range of Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things solutions to a broad range of manufacturing industries, as well as adopting it as the digital technology platform at its Runcorn manufacturing facility, in conjunction with Siemens’ MindSphere. For Hosokawa, setting clear objectives and measurable goals is the key to success for any digitalisation strategy.


Finally, BASF outlined how digitalisation is supporting its objective to make worldwide production plants as efficient and flexible as possible in order to compete in a global market, as well as helping the company to respond to customer demand for increasingly sustainable product solutions.


Challenges around data sharing are clear and a new mind-set is needed across industry to allow for better collaboration and integration if the true worth of data - ‘the new oil’ - is to be realised.  Improved plant availability, thanks to intelligence-led predictive maintenance regimes and the use of augmented reality technologies to reduce paper burdens and enhance system integration, are areas where digital is already making a difference for BASF.


Looking forward, horizontal integration with customers to better understand and anticipate their demands, supply chain enhancements, improved visibility of processes and an ability to develop new product solutions alongside customers through a partnership philosophy, could lead to potential new business models being created.

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