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Pharma 4.0 Won’t Hurt You – with Education

An interview with Parm Pawan, Grantek’s Director of Project Management Office

Nymi has a partnership with IT/OT technology consulting company Grantek, and Parm specializes in Pharmaceutical industry  consulting and system integration programs. We interviewed him for a broader perspective on the industry and its progress toward Pharma 4.0.

What are some common areas where you find either a lack of knowledge or misunderstandings in pharmaceutical companies?

It varies. But in general, anything new is definitely something that pharma companies don’t want to jump right in with both feet. The obvious new thing is Industry 4.0 or Pharma 4.0; using different technologies to gather more data and to do things faster. To do things not the typical way they’ve been doing it for years prior.. Being a technology consulting company, that’s where we help out. We can guide the customer and say, “This is not reinventing the wheel; this is not something you should be scared of. It’s not something that’s going to hurt you. You can still go and defend this to the authorities.”  That’s a large part of our business.

Help me understand the ways in which information flow is still a major challenge for companies. And are there aspects that are a whole lot easier now that people might not fully understand?

I have been at Grantek 13 years, but that is not that much in terms of automation where some systems are 20, 30, or 40 years old. Now people are fighting to get these old systems to work with all the new technologies. In a lot of well-established clients, everything is an island with no infrastructure to connect to anything else, right? Coming from that and transforming all the way to 4.0 where everything is connected, and everything can talk to anything. There’s lots and lots of education that needs to be put out there for these clients. We do our best to help them in that aspect.

Now, you’re able to find out how things work on the other side of the world. You’re able to drill into the temperature characteristics over a long period of time with relative ease rather than putting in a request and going into archives and so on and so forth. There’s a huge leap that we’ve made.

What drives a pharmaceutical customer to the types of projects where they come to you? Especially the degree to which pain points like compliance, recalls, audit findings or more that they have a vision they are pursuing like Smart Manufacturing or Industry 4.0 or Digital Factory?

I think there’s a mixture out there. It’s very hit and miss and very diverse about what’s out there. Who’s a visionary, and who is just looking to solve regulatory problems.

Some customers are visionary. They are looking ahead, reading about Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0 and don’t want to be left behind. Those visionaries don’t just stop at a one-time implementation. They are looking at “How do I integrate all of my plants together? How do I make sure that everything works the same? How do I make sure I am taking advantage of this whole 4.0 initiative?” Not just using the buzzwords and having a few things available to me while I’m at my desk, and that’s it.

Obviously, pain points like regulatory findings can easily guide you into different kinds of projects and things that need to be done. In this mode, the question is “How do we make sure that we’re producing and still keeping profits in mind?” So time savings - do the same in less time – is obviously one of the big ones. Logging in and out is obviously something that needs to be done. But how do you speed that up, for instance, and still make sure you are in compliance? This is where Nymi and their band and their technology really, really helps out.

Are you finding that companies are natively interested in biometrics? Do they really get it?

Do they really get biometrics? Some do and some don’t. It really depends on the customer. There are some customers we’ve been to that did not even know that there are alternatives to pulling out a keyboard and typing in your super-long password that has to meet all these requirements including that you have to change it so often. When you give them these alternatives, then you see the ‘ah-ha’ moment. You see the eyes open. They try to grasp at “How does this actually work? Can this really work? Can you actually do this and still remain compliant?” That’s where the education piece comes in.

How does authentication fit into that Pharma 4.0 landscape?

Authentication is key in pharma. Being able to sign off that you understand that this process or step has been completed, and you have the authority to sign that, or you have the authority to witness that.  And yet the amount of time it takes, and hassle in biopharma or gene therapy is large. With the clothes and gloves and gowning procedures, our keyboards and touch screens may not work as well.

So with authentication, Nymi really allows you to speed things up. It allows you to get back to processing and getting the product moving through the cycle.  That is a huge value, especially when you want to utilize that line and boost OEE. If you can do more on that same line by cutting authentication time, I can spare up that line for the next batch, and the next, and so on. There is a lot of literature that I know Nymi has gotten into about how much time is spent logging in and out and approving. Nymi can save you so much time! I think that’s great, especially in the pharma world. 

A whole other level is increasing data integrity, improving employees experience and better security which is also very important. If you get into MES as well, there are more sign-offs like “Have these goods been issued? Have they been received? Are you moving things around? Can you confirm? Can you verify? Can you secondary verify?” All these sign-offs, just to make sure you are within your regulatory bounds, can really add up. Especially with all apparel you need to wear these days in gene therapy and biopharma. I think that is a huge benefit that was not looked at a few years ago. Now that benefit is centered in the Nymi solution.


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