Although the pharmaceutical industry wasn’t the one to immerse deeply into the digital twin technology at the very beginning of the concept emergence, the advent of the digital era and the ever-changing environment has prompted factories to take this leap towards digitalization.

Why Pharma Plants Deploy Digital Twins?

With the proliferation of constantly mutating viruses and infections pharmaceutical plants encounter various problems which they are no longer capable of solving by utilizing traditional methods. In the running of last couple of years pharma has faced numerous challenges that it had to address:

Incapability to scale productions
Traditionally run pharmaceutical factories experience tough times when emergencies such as epidemics or pandemics occur. Medicines and equipment are to be supplied urgently and in voluminous quantity but plants fail to provide it. Conventional pharmaceutics is deprived from fast adaptability and scalability aggravating health issues by insufficient and stiff production.

Inaccurate quality assurance
Production lines must guarantee the quality of the drugs issued and be compliant with international regulations. The world witnessed tragedies caused by poor drug mixture or inappropriate packaging and handling that resulted in lives lost and the whole production run recalled. Poor quality assurance and faulty equipment lead to drastic mistakes and fake medicine affecting humans lives.

Frequent human errors
Highly sophisticated processes running inside pharm production buildings require no interruption or human error to take place. In case errors happen they need to be easily trackable and eliminated letting no people undergoing treatment to be affected. This constitutes a perfect scenario barely found at the enterprises with no digital backing.

Troublesome licencing and patent rights violation
Expiring patents prompt producers to invent new recipes which must be compliant to numerous regulations. Test and approbation periods take too long resulting in lost opportunities and permit rejection. At the same time, the recipes remain highly confidential and their sensitivity is carefully kept from violation, which increases the need for safety measures to be implemented at all stages of the product life cycle.

Raised operating costs
Rising operating costs and declining profit margins create additional monetary pressures and pull pharma companies back from expanding production lines or establishing new ones. Experimental lines establishment, new product validation, certification and marketing constitute huge investment the output of which can hardly be foreseen.

Inability to adopt a patient centric approach
Pharma factories can’t track the real benefits and results their treatment brings to patients firsthand, making it impossible to adjust and modify products to the market need.

To address these issues and find better solutions, pharmaceutical plants opt for creation of digital twins, or virtual replications, of their assets, equipment, processes, products and even patients.

How Digital Twins benefit pharmaceutical plants?

  1. Creating digital replicas of their assets pharmaceutical plants get in-context visualization and data to optimize processes and maximize production lines, enhance viability and ensure there is space and capability for any urgently necessary alterations and reshaping.
  2. A digital model of a plant leads to a better understanding of the building’s facilities, utilities and equipment, their coordination and interdependence, as well as helps to plan and control production more effectively.
  3. Making processes more transparent and reliable pharma factories can ensure the quality of their end product and comply with the high level of standardization and regulation required for manufacturing health-affecting products.
  4. Digital Twins facilitate creation, testing and market placement of new products enabling to replicate them in a virtual environment.
  5. Faster decision making, better planning, and accurate calculations combined with less workforce, scaled-down business expenses and zero human factor underscore the advantages digital twin technology brings.
  6. Improved quality control and the ability to track supply, production and post-production chains assure product end-users of the quality of medicine they purchase as well as give the manufacturer a number of important insights.
  7. Digital nature of the twin makes it possible to keep all the data backed up and secured, leaving sensitive data unattainable for stealth or loss.
  8. Readily accessible digital data improves education and training processes, prevents downtime and enables remote virtual walk-throughs to be done at any time.

What Digital Twin Solutions to explore?

Deploying digital twins that portray the properties of a pharmaceutical plant may well be a cornerstone on the way to digital transformation and Industry 4.0. Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology will help to visualize the asset and equipment facilitating operations, training and maintenance. A digital replica of the utilities will lead to faster repairs and accidents avoidance.

A digital twin of an existing can be developed with the help of laser scanning and 2D documentation that will be transformed into a 3D one and become more holistic and easily accessible. Scan to BIM convergence will lead to the identification of discrepancies and inaccuracies. Found, they can be addresses pointwise and fixed to avoid downtime in the future. Proactive planning becomes data-based, not intuitive and enables to cut capital and operational costs. 4D BIM mapped on the plant’s construction and operation accompanying the asset during the entire lifecycle.

From our experience of adopting digital twins in pharmaceutics, many plants opt for BIM technology backed by laser scanning and other reality capture capabilities. Many companies proceed to implement 4D BIM and schedule processes without any blank spaces and downtime. For BIM pharma companies or design offices use software suits from such market leaders as Autodesk, Bentley Systems, Navisworks, Tekla structures.