Recently AspenTech undertook research which revealed how for all its achievements during the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and the US is still only creeping towards digitization.
While other industries push forward with analytics and predictive capabilities to optimize performance and react rapidly to changes in demand, the survey of 300 senior executives in the UK, US, Germany, France, Spain and Sweden found that almost nine-in-ten (87%) admit the organization they work for has a poor digital culture. Nearly half (49%) admit struggling to use data so they can improve time to market for their products.
Using a set of benchmarks from the responses, the research established who can be considered a “digital culture leader” with the confidence to adopt new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The bad news for the industry is that only 13% matched the requirements. Not only does this poor grasp of digitization make the introduction of technologies such as AI and ML very difficult, it undermines the agility of companies and their ability to increase revenues. In all industries, but especially in pharmaceuticals, the most profitable and effective organizations stand out for their ability to use data effectively across all aspects of the manufacturing process. The companies that are data-driven innovate faster and respond to opportunities and threats at speed.
The research findings revealed how, apart from culture, many firms are held back by one particular type of shortage – an in-house lack of data talent. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) said their company has poor or merely adequate levels of digital skills with cutting-edge tools such as AI and machine learning. Nearly half (48%) were prepared to say their company’s competitiveness is taking a hit because they cannot even extract insights from their own data. Another 48% agree they don’t make full use of their data when they make business decisions.
It is a disappointing set of responses from an industry that has achieved near-unbelievable feats in vaccine research and production during the pandemic. It is clear that many companies still rely heavily on spreadsheets and manual methods to plan and optimize production, making it difficult to compete effectively in a future dominated by advanced digital processes covering everything from design, to demand prediction and management, to production and supply chain optimization. It begs the question just how much more efficient the industry as a whole could be if more companies fully embraced digitization and used data more effectively across all aspects of drug manufacture.
There can be little doubt that organizations powering ahead in pharmaceuticals will use data insights and AI-powered predictive technologies to optimize their processes and achieve faster development and roll-out which today’s markets demand. But almost half of the senior executives surveyed (49%) admitted their companies are not good enough at predicting demand for a product and adjusting output accordingly. Nearly as many said they are poor or ineffective in the related field of predicting and resolving supply shortages.
If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that the industry needs to react quickly to meet demand spikes and dips, requiring a shake-up of the entire development and production process, as well as the ability to predict and adapt to changes in demand for existing drugs.
COVID-19 not only triggered a rush to develop a vaccine, it had serious impacts on demand for drugs already in production. The whole velocity of the market has accelerated - but our research reveals that the pharmaceutical industry has much farther to travel before it gets up to speed. In a world where workflows remain heavily manual and paper-oriented, and much time is taken processing, checking and cleaning data rather than making timely decisions based on it, there remains a significant challenge. Senior leadership teams need to address the digital culture in their organizations right away and quickly improve access to advanced data skills so they can implement transformative technologies. The research shows how urgent the task is.
To learn more, watch our on-demand webinar: How are Pharmaceutical and Biotech Companies Using Data and AI With Confidence?
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