Medicine for inefficiency: A single software system

By Jay Deakins, Deacom Inc.

One of the best places to uncover wastefulness in a pharmaceutical manufacturing operation is your software setup. If you're using multiple systems--standalone solutions, programs connected by custom software interfaces or bridges, or manual programs like Excel--to manage business processes, there are several issues that can add complexity, slow you down, and put you at risk for errors.

But by integrating processes, including formulation, regulatory reporting, inventory and lot control, purchasing, sales order entry, production, and accounting, in a single software system with real-time transactional posting, you can eliminate the issues associated with using multiple systems and improve operational efficiency.

Here are some of the top problems associated with using multiple systems, and how an integrated system designed for pharmaceutical manufacturing can combat them: 

  • Data integrity - When using several systems, you perform duplicate data entry. Typing errors, or just forgetting to update one system, can create data integrity problems that require research across systems to correct. Or they get passed along to customers or regulators. With one fully integrated system, you enter data once and it updates system-wide in real time.
  • Lot tracking - Using separate programs for purchasing, inventory, production, and sales can inhibit lot traceability. Many manufacturers employ such manual methods as writing lot numbers on batch tickets in this environment. In a recall, searching paper records (possibly with transcription or filing errors) is a lengthy or incomplete process. A single system lets manufacturers bar code raw materials and use handheld scanners to track lots through inventory, production and shipment. Complete lot histories can be accessed from a central location.
  • Document generation - Without an integrated system, a worker must research all relevant data, make calculations, and plug data into a word processing program to create regulatory reports and labels. A fully integrated system can automatically populate document templates with the appropriate data, speeding the process and eliminating errors.
  • IT environment - With multiple systems, training is complicated because employees must get acclimated to each program. Software upgrades are difficult--particularly if programs are bridged and interfaces must be re-customized and tested. When there's a problem, you have several vendors to call, and that can lead to the "not my problem" runaround. But in a single-system environment, there is only one program to learn and maintain; only one vendor to manage.

So when seeking ways to improve profitability and efficiency, look at the software systems you're using to run your business. By employing a fully integrated ERP system, you can achieve greater operational efficiency and accuracy.

Jay Deakins is president at Deacom Inc. in Wayne, PA. You can reach him at [email protected].