Innovation is the backbone of the life sciences industry, where growing demands for faster, more precise, transparent operations are evolving at an unprecedented pace. The application of the Internet of Things (IoT) helps meet these demands, delivering powerful benefits that automate, optimize, and improve processes throughout every phase of research and development (R&D) and pharmaceutical manufacturing. In fact, McKinsey estimates that IoT could enable $5.5 trillion to $12.6 trillion in value globally by 2030 – and with around 30% of the top 20 pharma companies having adopted IoT technologies, the Life Sciences industry plays an integral role in this growth.
IoT-powered solutions deliver visibility, and real-time, automated asset management and tracking capabilities. What’s more, IoT encompasses a blend of technologies, collecting and centralizing vast amounts of mission critical data, where it can be visualized in real-time to support entire research teams – maximizing uptime, decreasing costly delays, driving productivity, and enhancing compliance. These benefits translate into measurable ROI in three key areas.
Optimize Staff Productivity
Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities have adopted automation, IoT, and other technologies to create paperless labs, optimize testing procedures, automate manual processes, and substantially improve speed. According to a recent report, these technologies typically boost productivity by between 50 to 100% at well-performing labs, with average-performing labs potentially achieving an even larger productivity improvement of 150 to 200% of their current rates.
Laboratory organizations rely on a breadth of staff with varying, unique roles - from research and development (R&D) teams to lab managers and equipment supervisors, to name a few. Each role has unique responsibilities, like conducting and monitoring experiments, analyzing reports, coordinating with scientists, and facilitating the research, discovery, and development of various products.
Regardless of one’s role or duties, all staff face an overarching challenge in their daily operations: identifying and locating high value supplies essential to daily operations, such as mobile lab equipment, microscopes, and scales. Item finding is vital to track and locate equipment in real time, especially when tens of thousands of supplies are spread and shared across vast, complex campuses with multiple floors, units, and buildings. Manual searches take time, effort, and result in costly service delays, inhibiting experimentation and causing inefficiencies.
An IoT-powered asset management strategy, however, simplifies and automates item finding via a sensor-based asset tracking solution like real-time location systems (RTLS). When attached to high-cost, mobile laboratory equipment, RTLS technologies like BLE-based (Bluetooth Low Energy) tags and sensors, for instance, transmit location data for up-to-the-minute, transparent views via desktop or mobile devices – enhancing equipment availability, increasing utilization, and expediting staff ability to retrieve supplies when and where they’re needed. This is vital for locating frequently used assets for calibration purposes, like disparate pipettes, for example.
Enhance Safety and Compliance
Unsurprisingly, the life sciences industry is held to rigorous compliance standards and safety protocols. Ensuring lab equipment is properly monitored, secured, and consistently accounted for is vital to avoid punitive, costly fines that could be incurred during quality inspection audits. Historically, staff would manually index and record equipment data via handwritten spreadsheets and legacy systems, taking significant energy and time away from other priorities. This method is naturally subject to human error, posing extreme risk in an industry requiring the highest precision possible in all operations. One study, in fact, found that manual data entry among clinical staff had a 3.7% error rate, reinforcing the need for intelligent, data-backed automation.
With IoT-based systems, the chance for this error can be minimized or eliminated by reducing human-intensive, mistake-prone processes. Progressive advances in sensor technology allow for simpler, real-time creation and collection of sensitive equipment data, which is aggregated, unified, and centralized for user-friendly, digital visualizations. Leveraging analytics helps derive meaningful, transparent insights into patterns that illuminate operational effectiveness, detect gaps in clinical and plant workflows, and uncover new opportunities for process improvements.
By streamlining maintenance and calibration schedules, promoting equipment stability throughout its lifetime, and ensuring the regulation of storage conditions respective to equipment, samples, and thermosensitive assets, compliance and regulatory reporting processes are enhanced. With RTLS in place, staff can proactively track and locate items with performance issues or at risk of malfunctioning for swift corrective action. Separately, IoT-enabled, data-backed condition monitoring ensures assets are protected within the appropriate temperature range in refrigerators and freezer storage.
And, for predictive maintenance purposes, sensors can forecast when machinery needs routine servicing or calibration, notifying staff accordingly, while eliminating the need to outsource these tasks to high-priced specialty teams. This saves a drastic amount of time and expenses for repairs or replacements of equipment, with automated predictive maintenance capabilities reducing an estimated 18-25% in costs – again, showcasing the potential for substantial ROI.
Reduce Capital Expenditures
The biopharma industry loses approximately $35 billion annually as a result of failures in temperature-controlled logistics, according to IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. Most pharmaceutical products have specific temperature requirements and can easily degrade if exposed to conditions outside their range of stability, resulting in wasted, costly resources and hours – if not years, of research. This was the case for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, who lost the third largest collection in the world of autism brain tissue samples in 2012 - setting back research in the field by over a decade.
Undoubtedly, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest sectors impacted by temperature-related issues, due to inadequate availability and shareability of information associated with massive, high-value orders with potential for perishability. Without real-time transparency or active condition monitoring, timely identification and remediation cannot be dispatched to handle problematic issues when they arise. And, without data and analytical capabilities, root causes of these issues cannot be evaluated or improved to futureproof and safeguard operations.
Monitoring energy-intensive equipment affords massive savings potential by triggering alerts when not in use. Moreover, analyzing usage patterns can highlight gaps and improve troubleshooting, minimize downtime, and reduce costs incurred to right-size inventory and repurchase misplaced assets.
Ultimately, when stakeholders in life sciences are equipped with IoT-powered data rendering user-insights, utilization rates, and equipment status, they’re poised to make better, more informed purchasing goals, optimize operational spending, and improve decision-making – all of which translate to measurable ROI.
MachineQ for Lab Asset Tracking and Management
MachineQ, a Comcast Company, offers a comprehensive, differentiated asset tracking solution disrupting the RTLS landscape by providing enterprises of all sizes and industries with up-to-the-minute views of high-value inventory, equipment, and moveable assets. Pairing LoRaWAN® and BLE wireless technologies, the solution leverages an optimal mix of real-time location and sub-room level accuracy, long asset tag battery life, and overall cost-effectiveness – while alleviating potential security concerns by utilizing a dedicated, separate IoT infrastructure that bypasses corporate networks.
Our proven, turnkey RTLS solution helped one major global pharmaceutical biotech company track ~14,000 lab assets across 1,000+ labs on an 850,000 square-foot campus. As a result, the life sciences company realized immediate cost savings, expected a full ROI in less than a year, reduced OPEX costs, and saved millions on repurchasing misplaced assets. In addition, the client found more efficiency, optimized workflows, improved productivity, and gained rapid, seamless deployment services at scale – setting a concrete foundation for additional use cases including leak management testing, lab occupancy monitoring, temperature tracking, and more.