‘Digital Twin’ Technology Key to Improving Sustainability in Pharma Manufacturing

BrandPost By Subhro Mallik
May 22, 2019
Internet of Things

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Credit: iStock

The acceleration in technological disruption in recent years and its ripple effect across industries and markets have been astounding. Increasing costs, shortage of skills, and evolving consumer habits have led to rapid digital transformation across various sectors, changing the way most businesses conduct and compete. Now, industries comprehend the need to adapt to the changing landscape of digital transformation by leveraging emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

For the manufacturing industry, disruptive technologies call for both product and process innovation in order to make businesses scalable. Faced with monetary pressures, the industry has been constantly looking at novel options to speed up operations, which led to automating several processes that were earlier done manually.

When it comes to pharmaceutical (pharma) companies, most of the traditional manufacturing technologies are proving to be no longer sustainable. The pharma industry continues to face numerous challenges, such as rising costs, declining profit margins, market saturation, the need for agile supply chain models, and stricter regulations. This makes advanced digital solutions imperative for pharma companies—in order to open up new opportunities and to keep up with the demands of the market.

One such promising technology is “digital twin,” which can transform the pharma industry as it is capable of scaling down business expenses and improving the durability of physical assets. Though the digital twin technology has been around for over two decades, its application across the product lifecycle in an industry like pharma is relatively new. According to research firm Gartner, the digital twin concept is among the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019 as it can enable disruptive IoT solutions.1

Pharma Industry Must Take This Digital Leap

When AI and ML evolve further, machines will take autonomy in industries to a whole new level. This includes skills to issue warnings, optimize performance, prevent downtime, do self-diagnosis, and coordinate with other machines. Digital twin technology has a significant role to play in such a future, and industries must make sure they are well prepared to unlock this potential.

Digital twins will pave the way toward the much-needed transformation in pharma, giving a massive monetary upside for manufacturers who are its early adopters. It not only helps manufacturers to predict the future of assets by evaluating their digital twins, but also provides better insights on product performance.

Pharma companies can leverage digital twins to simulate various operations in the drug manufacturing process. For instance, a manufacturing plant can now have a digital twin—a three-dimensional computer-generated model that is connected to all the sensors of the actual plant. This gives a real-time view into the plant’s operations, generating volumes of complex data in real-time.

Such detailed and valuable inputs will enable process engineers to visualize the operation, simulate and optimize parameters, perfect the batch design, and make assisted decision-making. Thus, they will be better equipped to control any anomaly that can occur during the manufacturing process.

Game-Changer for Pharma: Bridging Physical and Digital Worlds

Digital twin technology is evolving to become the next big thing in pharma. With digital twins in place, pharma manufacturers will have a solid digital footprint of their products throughout the development cycle, starting from the design phase, all the way to distribution.

With precise data and compelling analytics at their disposal, the drug manufacturing processes will be better controlled, offering the desired output. This will not only help improve expenditures but also reduce wastage of resources. In addition, digital twins of mass-produced medical goods such as vaccines will help with product tracking and verification, which is increasingly important in distribution, especially during medical emergencies.


1 – Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019, Gartner, October 2018