Volodymyr Hryschenko
Volodymyr Hryshchenko A Xbf Ofq Ju U Unsplash

The Right Prescription For The New Norm? Digital Transformation

Aug. 25, 2020
Undergoing digital transformation empowered Pfizer to power through evolving demands during global pandemic.

As most manufacturers experienced firsthand, operating during a pandemic is challenging. Pfizer manufactures more than 23 billion doses of biopharmaceutical products – ranging from solid oral doses to vaccines and sterile injectables – across a network of 42 global manufacturing sites. Accomplishing this task during a pandemic intensified the urgency as well as the complexity of the task at hand. For Pfizer, success necessitated intensifying digital transformation efforts to the point that the company would be able to produce 3 million additional product doses and train with experts using augmented reality (AR) amid the pandemic.

As part of its digital transformation, Pfizer aimed to replace disparate legacy systems and processes unique to each manufacturing site with a common, unified enterprise system strategy allowing them to gain insights from the end-to-end manufacturing process.

Pfizer leveraged digital technologies, including the Rockwell Automation PharmaSuite manufacturing execution system and IIoT platform ThingWorx, to transform manufacturing operations into a seamless data-driven insight engine driving world-class performance within and across Pfizer Global Supply (PGS) operations to allow Pfizer to deliver on its purpose: Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.

According to Keith Higgins, vice president of digital transformation for Rockwell Automation, digital technologies were used to bridge the gaps with legacy OT technologies and unlock insights from data.

“The COVID-19 pandemic drove increased demand for Pfizer’s Digital Operations Center offerings -- a Pfizer-developed digital solution providing visual management and action tracking capabilities that allow colleagues across Pfizer’s sites to stay connected and work collaboratively while maintaining social distance guidelines, says Higgins. “Pfizer has seen entire sites deploy the Digital Operations Center Visual Management capability within a two-week period versus previous deployments that had been staggered throughout a full year. In addition, remote collaboration tools like Help Lightning and Vuforia Chalk were rolled out across the global enterprise within a two-week window, enabling operations colleagues at manufacturing sites to connect with global subject matter experts through the use of smart glasses and mobile phones.”

Higgins tells IndustryWeek, Pfizer’s digital transformation efforts have improved cycle time, manufacturing throughput/yield and right-first-time quality. “In an example for a single product within one manufacturing site, the digital transformation program has been credited with enabling the manufacture of 3 million additional doses above what was planned for that product in 2019,” he says. “Plus, Pfizer’s digital transformation efforts will continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the company expanded its investment in security infrastructure across manufacturing sites. This enables them to access their shop floor data remotely while ensuring proprietary information and intellectual property remain secure as they continue operations during the pandemic.”

Of course, like any change, the transformation did not happen overnight. “One mantra used throughout the process was, the word ‘digital’ does not always mean fast,” explains Higgins. “There was an expectation, based on historical programs, that IT projects must deliver value quickly. Any transformation is going to take time as the word transformation itself means a change that is disruptive to how we work today,” he says. “Differences in process and equipment standards across Pfizer’s network 42 global manufacturing sites made it challenging to obtain insights from data. The diversity of the Operational Technology (OT) layer, due to the legacy of the manufacturing sites, was an additional challenge to integration. Day-to-day manufacturing processes had historically been developed by each manufacturing site independently.”

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!