Digitalization – the new square root of the pharmaceutical sector

Advanco has long emphasized that the pharmaceutical sector is undergoing a revolution, a series of mammoth changes that will rewrite the very DNA of our ever-changing industry.

Digitalization – the new square root of the pharmaceutical sector

Indeed, like the winds of change whistling through the entire pharmaceutical landscape, the digitally driven Industry 4.0. is already driving major technological advancements. We are now seeing much higher levels of transparency and adaptivity for a digitalized plant floor, a movement which will only increase over the coming years, incorporating cyber-physical systems, Internet of Things, cloud computing, cognitive computing, and artificial intelligence, all working seamlessly together, and communicating with one another, for the overall health of the sector.

Advanco is proud of its recent track record in encouraging the pharmaceutical sector to invest in its digital capabilities. We have long realized that the smart factory will soon become a common reality across the globe, thanks to the already smart machines that keep getting even smarter as they access more data.

Digitalization – the industry and consumer pharmaceutical superpower

In addition to the multitude of changes for global pharma manufacturers and distributors, digitalization will touch everyone on an individual basis, right across the entire global health system. Think, for example, of the digitization of document processes, of administrative and distribution processes, but also of more efficient and transparent communication between all the actors involved. Then, there are the patients. Today, patients are no longer just the target, the terminal to which the players in this enormous and complex sector turn. Today, patients are at the center of all these changes. And all these thanks to digital.

Health itself is becoming increasingly digital. Think of all the opportunities in healthcare, from Tele Health solutions, including advances such as smartphone applications to wearable devices, up to sensors that may be ingested or implanted under the skin. There are also a whole raft of personal medicine applications, including advanced analytics and digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things and blockchain to manage patient treatment lifecycle at an individual level.

The digital supply chain

Advanco was one of the first companies in the pharmaceutical sector to highlight the importance of how digital systems will sit behind a revolution in how supply-chains are structured.

One of these changes will be powered by new-edge computing, a distributed IT architecture in which client data is processed at the periphery of the network, as close to the originating source as possible. It shifts the focus from the central data center to the logical edge of the infrastructure – taking storage and computing resources from the data center and moving those resources to the point where the data is generated.

The impact of this new-edge technology on the pharmaceutical track-and-trace sector will be huge, especially where overall supply-chain operations are concerned. We have seen a move towards a much more agile, local supply chain. The rapid uptake of digital barcode scanning systems combined with the very latest, cutting-edge technology, has made supply chains much more secure.

New-edge computing will tighten this up even further. It will power automatic, time-sensitive supply chain processes in warehouses, factories, and manufacturing facilities. These processes will lessen the need for human management and create optimal outcomes while eliminating the risk of error due to manual processes.

One way that edge computing will change warehouse operations will see the addition of a scanner with a mobile application supporting the handling of serialized products across the supply chain and within warehouse operations. It will run on commercially available devices deployed at the warehouse, packaging, and other operational facilities.

The product will provide complete visibility across the global supply chain. This, combined with the ability to connect with multiple Enterprise-Level (Level 4) serialization repositories, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions, will complement the valuable investments made within existing solutions.

Advanco’s ARC LES Edge is one such product which is generating a great deal of interest from those already looking ahead to the impact that new-edge computing will bring. The outcome resulting from such changes will encourage a much higher compliance rate, and increased automation within the overall track-and-trace processes inside the warehouse.

Plug and Produce

Plug and produce is rapidly rising to prominence as a method of automating production lines and reducing the overall time and effort needed to reconfigure a manufacturing system. A user can add and remove devices without having to do manual configuration, and without knowledge of computer hardware.

To most pharmaceutical businesses, this will be irresistible. That is because production lines are still largely reconfigured manually. However, the ongoing Industry 4.0 revolution anticipates that these production lines will become semi-automatic and self-controlled. This will be made possible by utilising the plug and produce concept in the production systems.

This would then enable new deployments to be introduced to the existing production line, along with its reconfiguration, or extensions. The benefits of this are endless. Not only will this approach support a much more agile, streamlined supply chain, it will benefit increased automation on the shop floor, which will help companies to keep costs down in the long run.  It will lead to a much higher rate of compliance through a standard interface and will make it much more straightforward for firms to change suppliers, vendors, and customers.


Digitilisation and the future pharmaceutical sector will be intrinsically linked together, with Industry 4.0. sitting behind a major shift in the way the entire healthcare sector functions. We will see the development of a much more agile supply-chain, something that was always going to happen, but speeded-up because of major digital advancements, such as edge computing and plug and produce.

Indeed, any pharmaceutical firm that fails to invest in this new technology will not only fail to take future advantage of all that it will deliver, but it also risks the very real possibility of being left far behind as technology marches onwards.

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