Embracing digital manufacturing is about more than switching out traditional technology, according to research which suggests companies that make the change successfully also keep their business needs in mind. The new study, by researchers at the Center for Information Systems and Technology at Claremont Graduate University in California, looked at how drug firms are changing their manufacturing operations—their “digital transformation adoption models.”

Author Frederick Johnson, PhD, points out that while there are many differing strategies, what is clear is that changing to a digital set up is more complicated than simply installing new technologies.

“The key to digital manufacturing is directly tied to successfully managing change, specifically within a company’s culture, by fully understanding where the organization is today and then determining where the business needs to be in order to meet your patients’ changing needs,” he explains, adding that successful digitization requires a clear understanding of business requirements as well as the ability to make sure everyone is aware of what the organization is about to do and the challenges it is facing.

“The next step is changing behavior regarding how people are organized, work, or collaborate as teams, which is essentially rooted within the company’s culture,” he says. “Everything else is about strategy and the tactical execution of that strategy, which should include the use of a digital transformation framework.”


The research defines a digital transformation framework as a plan that sets out how to transition from one digital maturing level to another. Such plans are vital, Johnson says, as digitization impacts every aspect of a drug company’s operations.

“There are several ways using a digital transformation framework can benefit the biopharma manufacturing industry. However, the most important benefit is to improve the ‘success rate’ of the digital transformation process by using a tool that will define the overall strategic plans, describe, and maintain organizational alignment, and communicate the progress of the change,” he continues.

“When biopharma organizations achieve higher business agility through digital transformation success, this allows their business to support the industry’s future, which includes the prevention and early detection of disease, customized treatments, curative therapies, digital therapeutics, and precision intervention. Ultimately, providing high-quality healthcare options focusing on personal treatment will benefit and meet the needs of patients and their doctors.”

Biopharmaceutical companies should plan how they source bioprocessing technology, according to Johnson, who emphasizes that understanding the supply market and the options available is important.

“As you can imagine, the global pharmaceutical market is well funded, with an estimated market of $1.48 trillion. Firms within the industry have many more choices regarding technologies to invest in, whether an organization will buy, lease, or create solutions themselves,” he says.

“Of course, several major hardware and software solution providers that dominate the industry. These integrators and solution providers are experts at supporting very specific unit operations such as filtration, distillation, or extraction. However, despite the number of competitors, having more choices and options is always better for the consumer.”

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