Pharma companies and the life sciences industry are always looking to revolutionize the laboratory environment. New technologies that symbolize the Industry 4.0 movement, such as analytics, IoT, automation and connectivity, are defining this transformation by making organizations reconsider drug development and clinical trials.
As more emerging technologies are integrated into a pharma lab environment, the need to harness, assess, categorize, store and action the new data being generated, in real-time, becomes paramount. For instance, advanced technologies and tools like smart glasses enable labs to improve productivity by eliminating manual documentation, optimize planning, and streamline the management of personnel, equipment and materials utilization.
The adoption of digital transformation in pharma has accelerated the rate of change, enabling companies to gather data insights to execute business strategies, advance patient support and enable brand value propositions.
“Scientists want to spend less time in manipulating a large amount of data and focus more on assessing insights from the data analytics tools,” says Joseph Laraichi, Director and EU Lead for Life Sciences and Healthcare IoT at HCLTech. “Moreover, if a tool can take care of the end-to-end inventory, give notifications about consumables shortage and prepare orders—the lab manager can then easily manage the consumables, chemicals, devices, jars, vials and more in a click.”
Pharma labs embracing technologies in pursuit of transformation
Digital, automation and robotics technologies have created opportunities for change in pharmaceutical laboratories. The connected lab accelerates collaboration between scientists that allows them to focus more on science and on looking for process improvement.
Laboratories run in cycles with a lot of equipment, applications and analytical solutions that can do statistical calculations on the APIs. In a medical device company, certain parts are produced on the manufacturing site and tested in the quality control lab, where visual and mechanical inspection are done to detect any issue. When the operators assemble the devices, they are putting different parts together—and quality control labs test it to see if it was built together correctly.
There is a greater need to collaborate and bring all the ecosystems that work in silos together, such as manufacturing and laboratories. Technology can bridge this gap and enable greater collaboration. Quality control labs are keen on embracing this change. Hi-tech wearable technologies will not only improve the safety of the personnel but provide virtual access to internal procedures and detect in real-time if something goes wrong with any instrument.
“Quality has always been the cornerstone of safe and effective drug products. Manual data wrangling during the process implementations, siloed data and fragmented systems continue to challenge quality improvement efforts. So, new technologies will have a big impact on improving the quality which will not only benefit the lab employees but also the patient at the end of the day,” explains Laraichi.
The data-driven pharma labs
Data quality has a big impact on the accuracy and reliability of results. Without high-quality data, results are obsolete. Quality control labs are still processing data on paper and spreadsheets, with data sitting on too many siloed instruments, systems and processes. This requires manual and time-consuming activities from the lab engineers.
Laraichi clarifies: “Imagine an analyst dealing with these siloed systems within a sample test workflow. They need to log in and logout each time from all the systems within a sample test workflow repeatedly. To overcome these challenges, quality control labs need a reliable partner who understands the processes and business challenges with the ability to process engineering and apply a methodical approach to build a coherent digital roadmap. This will help the customers build the connected digital quality platform.”
A digital quality platform helps effectively assess, protect, store and apply data in real-time as you are now going from the siloed system into one quality platform, and HCLTech is bringing this with its solutions.
HCLTech’s Smart Lab—a scalable digital solution
As pharma labs incorporate new technologies, they will evolve to become more digitized, automated and distributed in nature.
“HCLTech developed a comprehensive, methodical and flexible framework called SmartLab—to support the digital transformation of laboratories and maximize the business value for their organization,” adds Laraichi.
The service is a combination of a scalable platform, automation and proven lab expertise. Pharmaceutical and Medtech companies globally look to leverage technology to overcome commonly faced challenges such as connectivity, networks, data, monitoring and notifications.
SmartLab is a kind of laboratory execution system that offers the customer three capabilities:
- Decode a dynamic ecosystem of connected devices: Decode is where all live devices are present in one application. It enables labs to build automated workflows, monitor data in real time, export data to other applications, monitor instruments remotely in real-time and get notified when your instrument values are out of reach.
- Training and lab documentation at fingerprints through Extended Reality: Assisted reality, augmented reality and virtual reality to help in the workflow guidance, device control and interaction. Augmented reality helps in the augmentation of workflows by reality enhancement, display of information and information triggered via QR codes. For example, virtual reality will help in virtual meetings and gathering virtual construction and disassembly.
- Laboratory inventory management: A robust inventory management and tracking system to increase inventory accuracy, faster stock checks, track and trace expensive equipment, track devices in color chain track and trace waste management to improve sustainability.
The human impact of embracing these technologies
Laboratory efficiency is dependent on the successful elimination of human errors. There are also issues of a lack of connectivity in the laboratory, both between researchers and the devices. This leads to researchers wasting a lot of time and effort running experiments that have already been conducted. Technologies not only solve business efficiencies and help the laboratories overcome challenges, but also empower the scientists to focus on new challenges, rather than existing, repetitive tasks.
The laboratory will become an environment made up of autonomous equipment connected to an IoT platform, allowing scientists to conduct their experiments more productively without the risk of data loss, retrievability issues, compliance concerns and human error worries.
“The idea is to let the scientist focus on bringing a quicker drug or medical device to patients, rather than dealing with the maintenance of devices and transporting data from one application to another. The big impact is allowing the lab engineers to do more science. That's the aim of embracing technology,” says Laraichi.