Life Sciences Look to Increase Productivity Through Robotic Automation


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The emerging digital workforce is very well suited for multiple routine administrative and production tasks that really do not rely on human judgment, and that are mostly rule based and repetitive in nature. The total number of these processes is astonishingly large in pharmaceutical, medical devices and related contract research organizations (CROs) given the numerous clinical, R&D, and commercial and sales call reporting procedures.

Robotic Process Automation

Automating these procedures will enhance efficiency, reduce operational costs and enable collaboration across the entire biopharma value chain. Automation of the “robotic” nature of tasks will free employees to focus on activities that drive value, improve customer engagement and in-turn revenue. Thus, robotic process automation (RPA) not only transforms the efficiency equation, but also directly enhances the customer experience. This complimenting technology can help companies organize themselves for the future, laying the foundation for a more autonomous, enterprise driven by artificial intelligence (AI).

With the increasing pressure to deliver operational efficiencies, CROs, pharma and biotech leaders are pursuing RPA as a way to integrate multiple sources of vast volumes of data for evaluation and insight. This dovetails with current additional  quality, compliance, clinical and regulatory tools offered by MasterControl.

RPA Benefits an Array of Functionality

The potential utility of RPA to automate repetitive, data-intensive back-office processes, such as finance and human resources, has already been talked about at length. But automation is about creating and maintaining efficiency. RPA’s ability to quickly integrate data to enable agility in complex environments makes it a technology relevant to the middle and front offices, too. The clear advantages of RPA are both speed and consistency in data entry, data analysis, quality control, and audit readiness in activities, including clinical, regulatory, safety and lab operations.

The following are some of the many RPA technology applications in core industry processes across the life sciences value chain:

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  • Clinical development: Data management; automation of integrated manual repetitive process, covert data from text, PDF to useful format for data analysis.
  • Commercial operations: RPA can be applied into functions such as sales force effectiveness, aggregate spend reporting, marketing fulfillment, chargeback and rebate processing, accounts payable. Most firms get their data from third-party providers, but the data quality isn’t the best available. RPA can enrich the collected data and reduce the process of third-party aggregation. It can also benefit sub processes of supply chain management like procure to pay, reconciliation of invoices and purchase orders etc.
  • Regulatory submissions: During the regulatory submission process, a lot of time and effort gets invested in quality verification. RPA can apply optical character recognition (OCR) and related technologies to automate this process.

Some of the key factors for any life sciences organization that is on the journey of evaluating and adopting automation include the following:

  • Discovery – Targeting a few processes to reduce cycle time and increase cost savings.
  • Assessing the right RPA partnership – Choose partners that have strong functional expertise to understand processes and suggest the most suitable RPA vendor.
  • Establishing strategy for breakthrough success – Having a clear vision for detailed use cases will drive breakthrough solutions to improve productivity.
  • Implementation – Switching to robotic process automation and cognitive intelligence to free up your employees to focus on higher value work. Deploy RPA across business areas to expand your return on investment (ROI).

Conclusion

To summarize, robotics can increase a life science manufacturer’s future agility. The technology will be embedded in all of our industry’s organizations over the next few years. To best understand the opportunities inherent in RPA adoption, companies should begin to assess which low-complexity tasks are best suited for the technology. The good news is CROs, pharma and device makers can take advantage of emerging leading practices learned in other industries. The keys to successfully benefiting from RPA technology starts with setting reasonable expectations at the start. The next step is to promote frequent conversations between RPA consultants, developers and business users to educate and provide training that facilitate the trust needed to achieve the full potential of robotics in the life sciences space.





2020-bl-author-ranjan-deshpandeRanjan Deshpande
 is a cofounder of Luceats Consulting with nearly 23 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry with technical and leadership positions in supply chain management, manufacturing and quality. He has designed and implemented several digital transformation initiatives by incorporating advanced production planning technologies, QMS and robotic process automation, strategies for clients in pharmaceutical, and biotech and healthcare vertical. Visit Luceats Consulting website here to learn more. Ranjan can be reached via email at ranjan.deshpande@luceats.com. Luceats Consulting is an enterprise partner of MasterControl.