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2022 is shaping up to be a year of transformation for the pharma industry. Traditionally not the fastest to adopt new technologies because of complex health and safety legislation, pharma is now rapidly going digital.

Digitised supply chain management is becoming increasingly vital, thanks to new factors like the need to transport vaccines and biologics in specific temperature-controlled packaging and to ensure visibility and transparency at all times. Five trends in particular look set to shape the future of pharma supply chains.

1. Packaging Automation

Smart manufacturing involves automating the whole packaging process with intelligent machines. Smart manufacturing solutions may involve AI, machine learning, big data architectures, cloud-based systems and robotics. An automated packaging process will not only reduce labelling errors–which can of course be dangerous in pharma–but also save time and money, cut risks and boost flexibility.

2. More Reliance on AI

Warehouses are now using AI and automation to manage labour shortages and keep up with the post-pandemic demand for incredibly fast, accurate shipping. This trend started as a stopgap to cope with lockdowns and social distancing but now looks set to go from strength to strength.

3. Blockchain Detects Fakes

Blockchain technology is being used at every step of the pharma supply chain from production to distribution. It can be used to spot counterfeit and low-standard drugs entering the supply chain and prevent harm to patients. It’s an extremely efficient method of securely tracking transactions.

4. End-to-End Data Traceability

AI and big data are enabling better decision-making and greater speed and efficiency in pharma. Hospital data on doctors’ medicine recommendations enables pharmacists to create better forecasting models. Data scientists can add value by helping pharma manufacturers draw meaningful insights from data to cut costs, boost efficiency and improve patients’ health.

5. Resilience in Supply Chains

Resilience in a supply chain means it can flex, rather than break, when things go wrong. Many pharma organisations had a rude awakening on this front during the pandemic and are working with suppliers to find ways to boost the resilience of their supply chains. Initiatives like HIRC (Healthcare Industry Resilience Collaborative) are helping by providing critical performance indicators. Supply chain bottlenecks must be overcome so that hospitals can continue supporting patients.

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