Understanding Upskilling in the Pharma Industry: Email Image

14 Oct 2019

Understanding Upskilling in the Pharma Industry

Alwyn Jones, Siemens Digital Industries Head of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences UK & Ireland

Digitalisation is changing the culture within the global Pharma sector.  Technology will be the engine of change, with people in the driving seat.

As industries adopt new technologies and changing business models, there is need for greater investment in new skills.  Employees are always looking at the learning opportunities available to them to keep their skills updated and to remain ‘job-relevant’.

While most businesses look for sector experience, nowhere is the focus more critical than in the Pharma industry. Research-based learning among scientists and pharmacologists holds great value. Yet upgrading skills demands is a tricky and complex issue and requires an intensive study of the dynamics of the pharma world and its specific needs. 

It is also a well-known fact that the pharmaceutical sector has an aging workforce, and this factor is far more relevant here than in any other business. The simple truth is that though there are highly skilled scientists, chemists and engineers, their generation means they are not digital natives. So, there exists a huge shortage of people with a digital technology skillset.

Understanding, and cutting through all the digital jargon can be daunting enough, with so many confusing messages from companies who are entering the digital world.

Enthused digital champions in leadership are needed, who confidently demonstrate the value that digital transformation brings to the pharma sector.

Admittedly, pharma has probably not been as quick as the Automotive, Aerospace and FMCG sectors in the adoption of digital technology but the next five years appear positively promising.

There will be a huge uptake in adopting digital twin and simulation in end-to-end solutions from drug discovery through to manufacturing and patient delivery.

The industry will see an increase in the use of robotics, cobots and AGV’s that will perform job functions alongside skilled employees.

It is important for business leaders and policy makers to know that robots and cobots only enhance the skillset and do not replace jobs, as demonstrated in many other industry sectors that have already embraced these technologies.

The question that now arises is how the existing workforce will prepare for this change and how can we contribute to the success of this exercise.

As a technology leader the onus is on us to create training programs and share the knowledge with our pharma partners. This will practically imply bringing the business leaders out of their offices and comfort zones to experience the digital technologies that can benefit their business.

This will involve upskilling the existing workforce in the new Industrial Digital Technologies (IDT’s) available today.  Additionally, new sets of skills need to be deployed effectively into the industry, with technology experts and data scientists who can help understand and disseminate the data, to elevate digitalisation to new levels in the pharma sector.

To give an example, our simulation platform SIMIT enables comprehensive tests of automation applications and provides a realistic training environment for operators even before the real start-up. This creates opportunities for process optimisation and know-how retention which results in reduced commissioning time and significantly shortened time-to-market. Overall this means higher efficiency throughout the entire lifecycle of manufacturing and process plants.  

New innovative technologies like these can only boost productivity and drive higher quality and efficiencies, but this performance can be enhanced if the workforce is prepared for using these technologies with the right training.

So, what is needed is a collaborative effort by technology experts and the industry leaders, where we synergise and work towards bringing new skills to experienced individuals in their field and create new digital jobs in the industry.

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