How to Know When to Upgrade Your Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Systems

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Written by Guest Blogger, Richard Parapar

Pharmaceutical manufacturing is an essential part of the healthcare industry landscape, and it’s one that’s constantly evolving, especially as technology continues to advance. But pinpointing when to upgrade manufacturing systems in a facility isn’t always easy or intuitive, especially with all of the complicated business considerations involved, so we’re suggesting some general guidelines to consider in deciding when it’s time to upgrade your facility’s systems:

  • Industry shifts: as computing technology advances, and the industry begins adopting those changes, it’s probably a sign that your facility should start planning to adopt them too. Upgrading your application software and operating systems can make a big difference in facility reliability, supportability, and performance.
  • Vendor changes: system equipment vendors, like all other companies, often go through mergers and acquisitions. When this happens to your vendor, it’s time to begin thinking about an upgrade. After all, it’s hard to maintain a mission critical system when you have no guarantee that its key components will continue to be available.
  • Scarcity of hardware and software: as computing technology advances, so do both the physical components of those systems and the software they run. If either in your facility is nearing the end of its useful life, and key components of your hardware setup aren’t being manufactured anymore, it’s probably time for a refresh.
  • Personnel loss: as long-time employees retire or leave for other jobs, a facility loses the knowledge those veterans had regarding the operation and support of the systems, which are fast becoming antiquated. Upgrading to current technologies will facilitate finding new staff who are familiar with those technologies and will be able to keep the gears running smoothly.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Systems Schneider Electric

When planning an upgrade, there are a few questions that facility managers should keep in mind when they’re selecting new software and computing platforms and beginning the retrofit process, to make sure that the retrofit is feasible, responsible, and affordable. For example, facility managers should consider what opportunities exist for replacement technologies to be able to integrate with the other existing systems in the facility.

Another important consideration is maintaining facility operations during the retrofit. Will the upgrade necessitate interrupting operations in all, or part, of the facility? When can the production schedule best accommodate a planned shutdown? How can you minimize downtime as much as possible? Will the upgrade risk impacting business continuity due to unplanned shutdowns necessary to correct errors?

Knowing when an upgrade is necessary is a good first step for any facility, but facility managers also need to know how to best and most effectively perform those upgrades. In the following series of blogs, we’ll introduce you to eight best practices for retrofitting pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, during both the planning and execution stages, and we’ll follow their use in Genentech’s CCP1 facility, which we discuss in our next blog— to show how they can make a pharmaceutical equipment upgrade effective and affordable.

Download our white paper to find more information about whether or not your facility might be ready for an upgrade.

Has your facility experienced difficulties because of any of these changes? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Richard Parapar has over 30 years experience delivering advanced automation solutions for the life sciences, petrochemical refining, high purity gas production, and consumer food processing industries. Richard recently retired after over 21 years at Genentech/Roche as a Senior Principal Engineer and Technical Lead for Automation Engineering, where he was responsible for delivery of major strategic automation projects and shaping the long term direction of manufacturing execution and process automation systems for Genentech.

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