Breaking the Mold- Outdated Methodologies Are Holding You Back


The proof can be seen in other industries — adopting emerging technologies and new methodologies deliver operational efficiencies that both reduce costs and advance innovation. As you know, the pharmaceutical industry, for a variety of reasons, has slowly begun to implement smarter ways of working as we struggle to overcome the plateaus to deliver new drugs: speed to market and crushing financial costs.

In addition to the regulatory environment and the resistance to change that it can impose, the pharmaceutical industry has been reluctant to break free of outdated methods because of resource constraints, competing priorities, and a too-comfortable culture of familiarity — a “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset.

To Embrace the Future, Break Free of Outdated Lab Equipment Optimization Methods and Technologies

But in the complex, dynamic, and connected digital laboratory environment emerging today, pharmaceutical research and asset productivity — plus total cost of ownership (TCO) — have never been more important for your labs. To achieve the insights that can drive the mission, pharmaceutical leaders must embrace advanced technologies and new methodologies, such as:

  • The Internet of Lab Things (IoLT)
  • Remote diagnostics and service
  • Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science
  • Access to the best-in-class peer benchmarks

Rather than becoming paralyzed by data overload and technological complexity, pharmaceutical companies can use technology as an amazing strategic asset.

Pharma can look to the healthcare industry, among others, for examples of how emerging technologies and methods have improved efficiency and sparked innovation. Nadim Michel Daher, an industry principal in medical imaging and imaging informatics at Frost & Sullivan, wrote in Diagnostic Imaging that the Big Three in medical imaging “are moving full steam ahead with their IoT strategy.”1 Siemens Healthcare, GE Healthcare, and Philips Healthcare have all made plays with connected devices, cloud technology, and other digital solutions.

In an adjacent industry, Sysmex Corporation, a maker of diagnostic instruments, reagents, and related software, has unlocked the value of the physical and digital convergence by incorporating IoT connectivity for its automated hematology CBC analyzer.2 The company said IoT-enabled solutions are helping it to reduce “time to diagnosis, enabling faster treatment plans, and improving the efficiency of healthcare delivery.”

Prior to the greenlighting of its acquisition by Bayer, agrochemical/agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto reported that fiscal 2017 record sales and gross profit in seeds and genomics were “fueled by excellent technology adoption.3” “Our proven ability to innovate and our unique platform advantages position us well to meet the production challenges of today, as well as the demands of tomorrow,” company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said in a statement.

What Methods Hold Pharma Back?

The structure in which many pharmaceutical labs are organized, staffed, managed, and expensed could use some updating. Too much focus remains on asset productivity, with not enough regard for researcher productivity. Some highly skilled and well-paid scientists are still burning time on noncore activities that interrupt them from their main scientific mission. An imbalance of attention is paid to asset and facility operation, but not on overall laboratory output or outcomes.

Even this emphasis on assets has not yielded to the latest models for preventive maintenance or capital replacement. All of this is part of a laboratory culture that likes to do things “the way they have always been done.” There are labs where preventive maintenance is performed based on calendar dates, not usage-based data, and where capital replacement is based on age rather than data indicative of diminished productivity. Multiple service agreements are still the norm, requiring tremendous management oversight.

Making astute organizational changes is critical for laboratories to prepare to leverage all that technology will deliver. Break away from legacy methodologies in the face of higher expectations, and look for solutions that return lab time back to the science itself. Rather than focusing specifically on activities that keep the lab, its instruments, and the facility running, shift emphasis to higher-value perspectives that include operational excellence, laboratory output, lower total cost of ownership, reduced complexity, and data-driven insights.

Alternative Methods

Placing emphasis on researcher productivity as well as asset productivity can lead labs to explore new options.

Predictive Maintenance

Among the easiest of restructured methods to adopt is a shift from scheduled instrument maintenance to predictive or conditions-based maintenance. Despite all the sophisticated instrumentation in laboratories today, maintenance and calibration are traditionally managed by arbitrary calendar dates. Instruments are simply serviced based on the number of days/weeks/months since their last service call. Plans to replace these instruments are also heavily calendar based.

Yet, advances in technology make it possible to use data from the instruments themselves to determine use, wear and tear, and overall productivity — much like cars, today. Using data to make service or replacement decision can extend the lifecycle of the instrument, as well as help lab managers understand and optimize utilization. Obviously, if instruments are not prematurely or needlessly serviced or replaced, the total cost of ownership (TCO) is reduced.

Total Cost of Ownership

TCO covers all costs, from instrument purchase and installment, to maintenance and care, operation, and the eventual decommissioning. As you may already know, TCO is an important measure of lab health and productivity. TCO-centric professional and scientific service providers can:

  • Help pharmaceutical companies analyze opportunities for improvement
  • Create strategic plans to address the shortcomings
  • Provide resources to execute the plan
  • Commit to delivering outcomes that drive the scientific mission

Organizations that don’t leverage technologies and service models to lower TCO run the risk of being less competitive. More efficient organizations, that use data and services within their decision making process, can reduce their total laboratory costs and, consequently, reinvest those new-found savings into R&D and their scientific mission.

Remote Support and Services

According to the Technology Services Industry Association, remote support solutions are expanding “to include support for more devices and richer analytics for trend analysis and supervisor dashboards.” TSIA notes that remote tools are being adopted to boost productivity and reduce onsite visits in field services, education services, professional services, and managed services.

Pharmaceutical companies that engage partners with remote capabilities can benefit from the proven productivity increases achieved in other industries. That said, TSIA encourages companies using remote support solutions to:

  • Continually evaluate the solution against evolving or expanding needs, to be sure it meets current requirements.
  • Beware of homegrown tools and shareware, which may not have the security coverage or the sophistication and device coverage of best-of-breed solutions.
  • Train, incent, and reward to promote adoption of remote support tools. Ensuring users benefit from the solution means offering training and support to bring them up to speed on a new tool.

Internet of Lab Things (IoLT) Connectivity

The connected lab is becoming a reality as the IoLT is connecting instruments, people, data, and devices to produce rich insights.

By 2020, Cisco’s Internet Business Group predicts as many as 50 billion “things” and 7 billion people will be connected via technology — up from 5 billion things and 1 billion people in 2010. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will become the norm, as more than 94 percent of pharmaceutical professionals expect intelligent technologies will have a noticeable impact on their industry over the next five years.4

Such connectivity enables monitoring and data gathering that can inform instrument utilization for optimization — from workflows to CapEx and OpEx management. In the connected lab of the future, you’ll have access to even greater volumes, velocities, and complexities of data. Cloud analytics will help reveal trends, opportunities, and threats that will ultimately help optimize operations and reduce costs. Both science and business will benefit from this wealth of data and the ability to analyze it.

Professional Services

Many pharmaceutical companies prefer using service providers to keep their lab running smoothly. A professional services vendor raises the quality of the services by providing a holistic, nonsiloed view of the organization and its overall performance. This can include services in governance, scientific or business consulting, customer education, delivering actual technology solutions, and support to ensure the relationship delivers increased value over time.

Focused Outcomes

Lab managers are no longer satisfied by their vendors filling basic service criteria. Instead, they want to build partnerships with providers who are accountable for outcomes.

With the old model, “sales” called on the pharmaceutical company to purchase instruments, reagents, and equipment for its labs, contract for services to keep those investments going, and perhaps add additional service contracts to staff the lab.

The smart model being offered today by some vendors is a results-based partnership in which the service partner agrees to a stated outcome — several samples per day, for example — and is accountable to deliver that outcome. The benefit to the pharmaceutical company is:

  • Greatly simplified vendor oversight
  • Increased confidence in service delivery
  • Productivity gains
  • Savings and/or cost avoidance

Breaking Free of Outdated Methods

The pharmaceutical industry has been slow to adopt the new operational pathways that could break the dreaded Eroom’s Law — the phenomena of slower, more expensive drug discovery despite improvements in technology.

Acknowledging the industry-cautious challenges of dealing with the complexity of human systems, and the regulated environment necessary to ensure drugs are safe and effective, the pharmaceutical industry must still look to experienced service partners and up-to-date technology for discovery acceleration. Technology vendors and service providers must partner with their pharmaceutical customers to integrate new methods — while always demonstrating the value that their added expertise brings. Without changing the way many labs, and perhaps even yours, execute today, the industry cannot change the results that those labs achieve tomorrow.


  • 1N. Daher. The Internet of Medical Imaging Things is Here, Diagnostic Imaging, March 17, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/pacs-and-informatics/internet-medical-imaging-things-here
  • 2Sysmex America Expands Use of ThingWorx Platform to Transform the Patient Experience, IoT Business News, February 7, 2018. Retrieved from https://iotbusinessnews.com/2018/02/07/23451-sysmex-america-expands-use-thingworx-platform-transform-patient-experience/
  • 3Monsanto Marks Record Sales and Gross Profit in Seeds and Genomics Segment in Fiscal Year 2017, Fueled by Excellent Technology Adoption, Monsanto, October 4, 2017. Retrieved from https://monsanto.com/news-releases/monsanto-marks-record-sales-and-gross-profit-in-seeds-and-genomics-segment-in-fiscal-year-2017-fueled-by-excellent-technology-adoption/
  • 4AI2020: The Global State of Intelligent Enterprise, AI& Intelligent Automation Network, April 10, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.aiia.net/artificial-intelligence/whitepapers/i2020