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Artificial intelligence vs. intelligent automation in the pharma supply chain

The pharmaceutical industry is changing how it approaches automation. While artificial intelligence is the tech buzzword du jour, a focus on intelligent automation has greater, more immediate potential to add value in the supply chain.

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Defining artificial intelligence vs. intelligent automation 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the foundational component of intelligent technology; it encompasses many critical capabilities, from automating the supply chain to enabling machine learning and robots to perform tasks. However, everything AI “learns” is from the data sets it is exposed to. AI is widely used in pharma, from predicting behavior to reading sensors faster.  

Intelligent automation (IA) can be thought of as a pillar of AI. Organizations like hospital networks or warehouses typically use it sparingly to build work processes or use learning abilities to anticipate customer needs. While IA is programmed with built-in logic, it also learns as it is implemented. The more intelligent automation is used, the better the results.   Implementing IA can be transformative for pharma companies in:  

  • Providing real-time visibility across the supply chain 
  • Reducing costs 
  • Increasing efficiency and accuracy 
  • Removing bottlenecks 
  • Improving compliance 
  • Streamlining quality control 

Pharma executives are increasingly interested in the potential benefits of IA. PwC found in a recent survey that 79% of pharma executives believe that intelligent automation will significantly impact their industry in the next five years. 

A case study in the value of intelligent automation in the pharma supply chain

A fireside chat at the recent LogiPharma EU 2023 expo between Pfizer’s Head of Temperature Controlled Logistics Projects, Tomas Fant, and Controlant’s CCO, Martin Thaysen, covered a host of topics, including AI vs. IA in pharma.  

Tomas Fant from Pfizer and Martin Thaysen from Controlant

Intelligent automation is an exciting proposition for pharma supply chain leaders, and Thaysen asked if the industry is on the verge of a massive shift in the way things are done regarding automation.  

“We have to walk before we run,” said Fant. “We still have many processes that are just paper processes that have been scanned into a digital form, but they’re not actually full databases that are interconnected or being used in a smart way, and we do see that pharma still has silos with the data and different elements of it.”   

Fant added that there has to be a lot of groundwork completed, which will bring a lot of value. “So, not artificial intelligence but, before that, intelligent automation,” he said. “We’re now at the maturity where we can automate so many steps, and we can do that in parallel while keeping an open mind for AI and more advanced technologies.” 

Intelligent automation can be a game-changer when it comes to supply chain management.  IA solutions can be used to manage the pharma supply chain, from raw materials to finished products. It can also provide new ways to optimize inventory levels, manage suppliers, track and trace products, and streamline transportation management. By using these technologies, manufacturers can improve productivity and efficiency, reduce costs, and improve patient outcomes. 

Finding the right platform is critical as pharma companies seek solutions to work toward more automated processes. Intelligent automation will play an important role in streamlining operations.  

Find out how Controlant’s Aurora platform can provide real-time visibility and transform your supply chain. 

Request to watch the fireside chat from LogiPharma EU 2023