The pharma landscape is fast-paced and constantly evolving, leaving some companies struggling to keep up.

In response, many biopharma companies are leaning into Pharma 4.0 initiatives and becoming more curious about how they can achieve higher levels of digitalization and automation.

Some may shy away from digitalization efforts because they fear it will cost both time and money. However, companies who choose to embrace Pharma 4.0 technologies and concepts set themselves up for higher levels of productivity and efficiency, which, in turn, create financial gains.

One Pharma 4.0 concept with the potential to improve operations and finances is plug and produce.

What Does Plug and Produce Mean?

In essence, the concept of plug and produce is complete interoperability across an entire organization and its vendors so any new piece of equipment or software can quickly and automatically integrate into an existing system.

In action, plug and produce would remove information silos and islands of automation to create seamless communication between every piece of technology and system within an organization and across processes, sites, and partners.

This level of automatic integration makes it much easier for biopharma companies to introduce new technology and make changes without disrupting operations.

Plug and Produce: An Example

Equipment in a facility likely comes from multiple different vendors, each with unique sets of controls. Traditionally, organizations have manually integrated these different pieces of equipment into their information technology systems.

Once integrated into the system by hand, the equipment knows what to do. However, what happens when a company needs to make a change? With such an inflexible, manual system, every individual vendor would have to visit the facility to make the updates — a practice that’s time-consuming and cost-ineffective.

With plug and produce technology, biopharma companies can eliminate these inefficiencies due to the higher level of flexibility, integration, and connectivity between equipment and computer systems. It also allows for more accurate, data-driven decision-making, helping organizations optimize their processes and find areas to reduce costs.

It is an area of high interest within the pharmaceutical community, so much so that the ISPE has a special interest group (SIG) dedicated to enabling a global plug and produce standard.

How to Achieve Plug and Produce

Achieving such a high level of integration is no small feat. However, there are steps biopharma companies can take that make adopting plug and produce concepts easier, one being standardization.

Ensuring each system adheres to the same standards makes vertical and horizontal integration a more straightforward process. Vertical integration refers to the integration between operational technology and information technology systems within a specific organization. Horizontal integration entails all aspects of the supply chain, including integration across multiple sites and third-party vendors.

Complete vertical and horizontal integration is an essential aspect of creating smart factories, also known as facilities of the future.

Standardization allows existing and new equipment to communicate with other systems quickly and without error. It also helps to ensure all new integration efforts comply with data integrity and security requirements.

Embracing plug and produce concepts creates a solid foundation for a more agile and flexible automation architecture and paves the way for easier implementation of other Pharma 4.0 initiatives.

Does Your Company Want to Embrace Pharma 4.0 Concepts and Technology?

With the right guidance and approach, it’s possible to achieve high levels of integration and implement new, innovative technologies within your biopharma organization.

Our team of commissioning, qualification, and validation experts is ready to help you every step of the way.

Talk to a CQV Expert