Is the pharma sector ready for Industry 4.0?

Published: 14-Jul-2014

Along with increasing market and regulatory pressures, the industry needs to keep pace with the latest manufacturing practice. Alan Johnston, Siemens Industry, reviews the trends as predictions about the influence of the next industrial revolution gather pace

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Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, technology has been the prime enabler of productivity in manufacturing. From early mechanics in the 18th century wool industry through the introduction of electrical energy to support mass production nearly 200 years ago, to the advent in recent decades of factories exploiting intelligent manufacturing technology to drive growth in the automotive and electronics sectors, so production advancement has had technology at its heart.

The next productivity leap in manufacturing is on the horizon and this fourth industrial revolution has been coined by experts as ‘Industry 4.0’. Put simply, it builds upon existing work that is developing smarter factories for the future; productivity hubs that will use higher levels of distributed intelligence through miniaturised processors, storage units, sensors and transmitters embedded in all conceivable types of machines, unfinished products and materials, as well as smart tools and new software for structuring data flows around a manufacturing facility.

The long-term thinking behind the notion of Industry 4.0 makes use of embedded technology and refers to this as Cyber Physical Systems that have both a computational element and physical interaction with the real world. Deploying such new technologies and processes will, according to estimates, lead to a 30% increase in industrial productivity.

While the journey to Industry 4.0 will take time, nonetheless it poses important questions for those charged with planning current and future manufacturing performance in the pharmaceutical and life science sectors. Indeed, these are real questions of relevance for the more than 4,000 companies currently operating in the sector across the EU.

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