Digitization in pharma: Gaining an edge in operations

Executive summary

The digital revolution has been disrupting business and daily life, and the pace of adoption is accelerating. Executives across industries are executing digital transformations as part of their corporate strategies. The first wave of the digital revolution focused on using technology platforms and data analytics to better understand customers — and, in the case of life sciences companies, to better understand patients in order to increase patient engagement and develop new go-to-market approaches. However, the next wave of the digital revolution is about transforming operations.

The pharmaceuticals and life sciences industry has been very cautious in applying digital technology to improve manufacturing and supply chain operations thus far, yet that caution is becoming a hindrance. As the pharma industry faces growing challenges — including globalization, great supply chain complexity, price and cost pressure, and personalized medicine, among others — digitization holds tremendous potential in helping companies adapt.

By applying digital technology, companies can significantly increase visibility into their supply chain operations and make better and faster decisions. Digitization allows companies to fully integrate their supply chains and improve operational processes, making them more adaptive and responsive. As a result, planning accuracy, manufacturing efficiency and productivity, inventory levels, and service levels improve.

Capturing this opportunity requires building a digital supply chain ecosystem, including virtual supply chain control tools, cloud-based information architecture, and a digitally enabled physical supply chain. When these elements come together synchronously, humans, machines, and resources communicate as a cyber-physical system, leading to improvements in all stages of the operations value chain: plan, source, make, and deliver. Moreover, companies need a structured road map for implementation that addresses risk factors such as cybersecurity.

Digitization is a complex task and risk factors like cybersecurity are concerns, but as other industries that are more advanced already show, digital transformation offers a clear opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Given the rapid pace of change in technology, pharma companies need to make digitization of their operations and supply chain a priority, starting today.


Digitization has the potential to fundamentally transform pharma operations, opening the door to step-change improvements in performance. Pharma companies should get started on this journey, taking immediate steps to digitize their operations and supply chains and develop a strategy and road map for the next three to five years. Those companies that seize the initiative can give themselves a sustainable competitive advantage; operate with greater agility, cost-efficiency, and control; and ultimately provide better care for patients.

Follow us