Adapting to Today's Pharmaceutical Landscape

Adapting to Today’s Pharmaceutical Landscape

Adapting to Today’s Pharmaceutical Landscape 700 500 Xcelpros Team

In this ever-changing pharmaceutical space, it’s crucial to embrace emerging trends and address challenges that arise. From personalized medicine to digital health integration, the industry is seeing amazing transformative shifts, and is sure to see more within the next few years. The demand for enhanced patient outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability further drives market dynamics of the pharma industry.

There are, however, some challenges that come along with these industry trends. Regulatory complexities, drug pricing, cybersecurity, and sustainability pose significant hurdles that demand innovative solutions. Despite these challenges, the pharmaceutical industry continues to grow and evolve. Breakthroughs in medical science constantly expand the range of available drugs. This is, in turn, contributing to the improvement and extension of lives worldwide. By navigating these trends and addressing these challenges effectively, the pharmaceutical industry can continue to play a vital role in advancing healthcare and lengthening patient lives.

Advanced Manufacturing Technologies

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are increasingly adopting advanced manufacturing technologies such as continuous manufacturing, 3D printing, and robotics automation to enhance production efficiency, reduce costs, and improve product quality.

Supply Chain Optimization

Manufacturers are always focusing on perfecting their supply chains to ensure uninterrupted access to raw materials, streamline planning, and enhance overall operational resilience. This trend has been further emphasized by the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outsourcing and Contract Manufacturing

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are increasingly engaging in outsourcing and contract manufacturing partnerships to use specialized abilities, access new markets, and enhance agility in responding to market demands.

Quality and Compliance

Ensuring quality and compliance with regulatory standards remains a top priority for manufacturers. They are implementing robust quality management systems, embracing process analytical technologies, and adopting data integrity measures to meet stringent regulatory requirements.

Digitization and Data Analytics

Manufacturers are embracing digital technologies and data analytics to perfect manufacturing processes, improve supply chain visibility, and enhance product quality through real-time monitoring and predictive analytics.

Sustainability and Green Initiatives

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are increasingly focusing on sustainable practices, including reducing carbon footprint, implementing environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, and adopting green packaging solutions.

Regulatory Compliance and Serialization

Manufacturers are adapting to evolving regulatory requirements, including track-and-trace serialization mandates, to ensure product traceability, combat counterfeit drugs, and strengthen supply chain security.


Challenges Facing the Pharmaceutical Industry

Emerging trends in the pharmaceutical industry present unprecedented opportunities for growth, innovation, and improved patient lives. However, these trends also give rise to a host of complex challenges that businesses, particularly pharmaceutical manufacturers, must navigate effectively to stay competitive.

These challenges span technological, regulatory, operational, and market-related dimensions. By understanding and proactively addressing these challenges, manufacturers can position themselves for success in this ever-evolving landscape and effectively contribute to advancing healthcare for the benefit of patients worldwide.

Increasing Costs

The pharmaceutical industry continues to grapple with the relentless rise in research and development costs, According to an article by CapsCanada, as well as escalating expenses associated with raw materials and manufacturing. This upward cost trajectory places significant pressure on pharmaceutical companies to find a balance between ensuring affordable pricing for their products and sustaining profitability. This can lead to financial strains and may affect patients’ ability to afford essential medications, raising concerns about accessibility and fair healthcare.

Stringent Regulations

Pharmaceutical manufacturers face the daunting task of adhering to increasingly stringent regulations enforced by government agencies, such as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). These regulations are designed to ensure drug safety, efficacy, and quality, but they can pose significant challenges. Compliance with complex regulatory requirements can lead to prolonged product development timelines, increased research and testing costs, and delays in product launches. Navigating the intricate landscape of regulatory compliance requires substantial resources, expertise, and meticulous attention to detail.

Changing Reimbursement Landscape

The ever-evolving reimbursement landscape adds another layer of complexity for pharmaceutical companies. Insurance companies and healthcare payers often change their reimbursement policies, formulas, and pricing structures. These changes can make it difficult for pharmaceutical manufacturers to accurately forecast revenues, effectively plan for future product launches, and navigate the shifting reimbursement dynamics. Companies must continually adapt to evolving reimbursement models to ensure market access, best pricing strategies, and sustainable financial performance.

Impact of Generics

The emergence of generic versions of drugs presents a considerable challenge for pharmaceutical companies. Generics, often priced significantly lower than brand-name drugs, can quickly gain market share and erode the sales of patented or proprietary medications. The entry of generics into the marketplace puts pressure on pharmaceutical manufacturers to stay competitive, which can include finding avenues for product differentiation, and exploring lifecycle management strategies to sustain market share and revenues.


Figure 1: Challenges Facing the Pharmaceutical Industry

Challenges Facing the Pharmaceutical Industry

Regulatory Compliance in the Pharmaceutical Industry

While the challenges we mention above are important, one aspect deserving increased attention is regulatory compliance. Compliance with stringent regulations is crucial for ensuring patient safety, supporting product integrity, and upholding ethical standards. It supplies a framework for navigating complex regulatory landscapes, showing commitment to quality and ethical conduct.

Regulatory compliance protects companies from legal consequences, financial penalties, and reputational harm. It is also essential for securing reimbursement and market access. Prioritizing regulatory compliance strengthens industry standing and contributes to the overall improvement of healthcare.

Non-compliance with set regulations can have a major impact on businesses in the pharmaceutical industry. An article from McKinsey discusses how in the past pharmaceutical companies didn’t put as much work into operations strategy when facing competing business pressures. Recent changes in the economy, international politics, and new therapeutics, however, have turned the focus back to strategic changes. Specifically, changes in sourcing, supply chain management, and distribution which address issues such as drug safety, pricing transparency, or supply chain management.

For example, recent legislation has made it more difficult for drug manufacturers to hike prices without justification and has needed greater transparency in advertising and promotional materials. While such changes can be challenging for companies to navigate, they are ultimately intended to protect consumer safety and improve the overall quality of pharmaceutical products. As regulations continue to evolve, it will be important for companies to stay informed and adapt accordingly.

Quality Control: Safeguarding Product Efficacy and Safety

Building upon the importance of regulatory compliance, a fundamental aspect that ensures patient safety and product integrity is quality control. In the pharmaceutical industry, stringent quality controls are essential for safeguarding the safety and efficacy of medications. Through rigorous measures and processes, pharmaceutical companies maintain the highest standards of quality throughout the entire product lifecycle, from development to distribution and post-market surveillance.

Quality controls encompass a range of procedures, including thorough testing of raw materials, in-process testing during manufacturing, and comprehensive analysis of the final product. By adhering to regulatory guidelines and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), companies ensure compliance with quality standards and mitigate potential risks.

Implementing robust quality controls enables companies to detect and address issues that could compromise product safety. This can include identifying contaminants, impurities, or variations in drug composition that may pose risks to patients. Ongoing quality monitoring and control ensure batch-to-batch consistency, ensuring that each dose of medication meets the required specifications.

By prioritizing quality controls, pharmaceutical companies demonstrate their commitment to patient safety and deliver reliable and high-quality medications. These controls instill confidence in healthcare providers, patients, and regulatory authorities. Through continuous improvement and adaptation of quality control processes, companies navigate the evolving regulatory landscape, contribute to patient welfare, and uphold the integrity of the pharmaceutical industry.

Conclusion – Understanding Pharma Today

The pharmaceutical industry is in flux due to various internal and external forces. With swiftly changing regulations, the advancement of technology, and rising costs, it is essential for businesses to proactively seek out strategies that can help them stay ahead. The constant and significant growth of the pharma industry within the last few years will continue showing positive results for companies who keep up to date with new technology and industry trends.

By analyzing and understanding the trends, challenges, and importance of regulatory compliance and quality controls in the pharmaceutical industry, organizations can proactively adapt to the evolving landscape. Continuously evaluating best practices and embracing innovative approaches allows companies to support their competitive edge. Thoughtful consideration of potential solutions equips organizations with the knowledge and preparedness needed to navigate industry changes effectively. By staying informed and implementing strategic measures, organizations can position themselves for success, drive innovation, and deliver high-quality products that positively affect global healthcare.

What pharma challenges do you face? Connect with us today to find a solution.

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Microsoft Dynamics and Digital Commerce in the Wake of COVID-19

Microsoft Dynamics and Digital Commerce in the Wake of COVID-19

Microsoft Dynamics and Digital Commerce in the Wake of COVID-19 700 500 Xcelpros Team


The business world has changed dramatically with the rise of digital commerce, and companies have had to rethink their strategies and business models to accommodate it. What was once just an idea in science fiction has become reality, and the phenomenon’s significance cannot be overstated. Data-driven technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are at the heart of this change, quickly redefining how people buy goods and services—and companies operate. Microsoft Dynamics 365 has been at the forefront of supporting these shifts, but what does that mean for businesses?

Digital commerce reaches all industries

Before we get into how digital commerce has grown after COVID-19, it is important to recognize that it is not only retail and service industries where ecommerce channels are on the rise. For example, consider chemical and pharmaceutical firms. Many are using ecommerce channels to market and sell branded products, operate online stores, or promote product recall information. These companies benefit by limiting overhead costs like warehouse storage space, labor for packing and shipping goods, etc. And consumers benefit from convenience: shopping is available at any time on one website instead of having to navigate different websites for a particular product.

In addition to their brands’ products, manufacturing firms have taken advantage of grey marketing opportunities by selling private labels via sites like Amazon’s marketplace or Walmart’s marketplace seller platform. They can use these channels to capitalize on popular products before they’re out of stock or completely sold out and use them as a bridge to launch new brands.

While ecommerce channels were primarily used to sell direct competitors’ products, now many manufacturers can also sell their own branded products through these platforms. The manufacturer then takes care of logistics and fulfillment while taking advantage of the branding expertise required for success on these media types.

Regarding compliance and regulation, manufacturers must keep up with complex regulatory requirements like FDA 21 CFR Part 11 rules when designing an electronic record-keeping system. Part 11 mandates among other things rigorous change control procedures and audit trails to track data modification which may be difficult in dynamic environments.

These are all important reasons why you need a powerful solution for managing your supply chain management (SCM) processes – including business process automation tools such as Requisition Approval Management (RAM), Order Approval Management (OAM), and Warehouse Execution System (WES).

eCommerce after Covid

$571.2 billion in 2019 to $815.4 billion in 2020. An increase of $244.2 billion, or 43%.

Figure 1:Growth of eCommerce after Covid-19

Growth of eCommerce after Covid-19


It’s hard to believe that it has been just over a year since COVID-19 rocked companies and their business strategies the world over. With another year quickly coming to an end, it’s a relief to see more companies have been able to move on from recovery and start rebuilding and reinventing their digital commerce strategy. But there are key considerations for regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

COVID-19 came at a pivotal time for regulated industries with compliance obligations for data protection laws and supply chain requirements. Before the pandemic, executives were just starting to wake up to these regulatory trends with increasingly complex compliance mandates; but after Covid, many took note that this wasn’t a problem that would go away by itself. Industry players realized they needed to be ready for change.

This global event drove a significant change in eCommerce strategy for many industries, including B2C sales and B2B business-to-business interactions where some organizations’ data security practices may have been less diligent.

As businesses struggle with ongoing supply chain and staffing issues, many have been forced to look more closely at new ways to deliver their goods to customers faster, more reliably, and with increased safety from outside threats. The evolution of courier services has helped lead to changes in logistics processes – assisting regulators in maintaining visibility into product movement while enabling enterprises to protect themselves against potential attacks.

Another major shift has been focusing more on customer experience rather than simply looking at what can be done internally. Companies should now recognize that it’s not only about providing an effective process or product, but now more than ever, it’s also about delighting the customer – a point that’s become incredibly important.

These factors are just a few driving the need for an up-to-date solution that helps achieve both goals by ensuring transparency and traceability across every communication channel through integration with platforms like Microsoft Office 365 so your enterprise can reduce complexity without sacrificing efficacy or control.

For companies in highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and chemicals, it’s easy to recommend Microsoft Dynamics 365, designed specifically for global, large multinational enterprises operating in highly regulated environments who need real-time access to consolidated company data across multiple divisions around the world.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 and eCommerce

It’s no secret that eCommerce has been growing steadily for years. From big players like Amazon to newer start-ups, digital commerce is poised to make even more inroads into all corners of our economy. The last few years have also seen a dramatic change as retailers realize that online and mobile channels are needed to stay competitive. Of course, all this begs the question: what role does Microsoft Dynamics 365 play here? What can it do to support these new needs?

Microsoft is committed to helping organizations overcome today’s business challenges through the continued development of innovative solutions and services. The award-winning Dynamics 365 platform provides customers with powerful tools to drive success across their entire organization – empowering employees to do more daily with mobile access anytime and anywhere.

Overall, Dynamics 365 enables businesses agility, flexibility, and speed when developing new capabilities or meeting evolving customer demands. In addition, Dynamics 365 Ecommerce features can offer an out-of-the-box solution for any business—regardless of size or industry—to sell their products online with robust features and functionality.

With Dynamics 365, customers get access to powerful web store templates so they can create unique shopping experiences that resonate with their customers. These include customizable pages and easy-to-manage checkout options for buyers. And of course, Dynamics 365 includes advanced payment processing integration, so retailers have seamless access to existing payment providers without having to spend time building and maintaining these integrations themselves. So, while global economic developments will undoubtedly impact how digital commerce continues to evolve in different industries over time, Microsoft Dynamics 365 is well positioned today as a flexible platform that meets the needs of companies across regulated sectors who want to leverage this burgeoning channel without sacrificing security or compliance.

Beyond support for customer service operations, Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides robust enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities – including finance, accounting, inventory management, and production – which can make it easier for leaders within regulated industries to maintain compliance within the evolving landscape of privacy regulations without making compromises on productivity or efficiency.

As regulations continue to evolve, many institutions will find themselves reviewing their vendor ecosystems and assessing whether there are adequate controls in place should they be subject to regulatory scrutiny. Companies should take care to review how specific vendors’ offerings align with their current compliance requirements including data governance, confidentiality and protection of personal information (COPPI), anti-money laundering (AML) or know your customer (KYC) requirements.

Next steps

So, what are the next steps for businesses looking to utilize e-commerce channels?

It’s important to do some research – companies should research the types of technology that can be implemented to drive digital commerce. With any new change comes many opportunities and risks that must be carefully considered.

Talk to your partner business software providers You should consider the type of retailing experience you want customers to have by speaking with the IT vendors that serve those areas. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a powerful business solution and partners with many leading companies in areas such as forecasting, supply chain management, order fulfillment, human resources, financials and more.

The continued success of this solution stems from its robust integration capabilities. As a Microsoft Partner, our clients don’t want to go through the process of switching between multiple systems; they wish to have one system to handle it all.

Schedule a call now to see how we can support your company’s growth.

Pharma smart operations and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations: A perfect pair

Pharma smart operations and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations: A perfect pair

Pharma smart operations and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations: A perfect pair 700 500 Xcelpros Team


We see more pharmaceutical companies struggle to reorganize the available technology to maximise their operations’ efficiency.

Unfortunately, many companies need to catch up regarding their ability to use technology effectively and efficiently, especially with disparate systems in place. This can be especially dangerous considering how fast-paced these highly regulated industries can be, making it even more essential to find a plan that works well with your company’s specific goals and needs.

Innovative operations and the role of technology

Today’s pharmaceutical industry is a fast-paced, ever-changing environment emphasizing compliance and accountability. Incorporating innovative operations into your business model will save you time, money, and resources and help lower costs through increased efficiency. One of the ways this can be done is by implementing a lean manufacturing process within your company.

With the help of robotics automation, QR and barcode scanning, production data management systems, and more, companies in this highly-regulated industry can enhance and optimize their processes for maximum productivity in everything from order processing to shipping.

The Medicine Development Lifecycle is especially conducive to modern innovative operations strategies – from development through commercialization, because so many aspects of each process involve repetitive tasks that are susceptible to automation or streamlined with advanced technology.

One example of intelligent operations strategies to increase efficiency, lower costs, and increase profitability is GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK has implemented lean manufacturing techniques for several years as part of its brilliant factory initiative. The goal was to make every aspect of production more efficient by reducing waste and optimizing processes throughout their facilities.

Smart operations are not just confined to pharmaceutical companies, though.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be used in a number of different industries, but it’s especially useful in sectors that require complex business processes and procedures.

Industry Challenges

Today, the battle for market share continues to be fierce. The constant challenges that large pharmaceutical companies face include the following:

  • Managing their complex supply chains.
  • Avoiding product recalls due to quality failures.
  • Keeping safety in check at all stages of the manufacturing process.
  • Reducing production time for new products.
  • Ensuring compliance with many regulatory authorities throughout the globe…the list goes on.

Because of these challenges—and many more—it has become increasingly difficult for these highly-regulated companies to successfully identify the need for new medicines early in development while keeping a firm grip on costs and timelines. This is precisely where innovative operations come into play.

So what can these businesses do to improve their efficiency? One key element of successful innovative operations implementation is integration between systems.

To properly track medicines and other products throughout their lifecycle, each system involved must be able to talk with all other systems engaged at every step. These companies can use advanced IT solutions like a Cloud ERP to address these challenges.

How Microsoft Dynamics 365 fits in

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for operations helps your business run smarter by integrating critical business systems. Here are some of the ways describing how Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be a natural fit with your company:

The model of intelligent operations is now an integral part of every enterprise as they look to innovate across all aspects of their businesses to maximize efficiency, maximize profitability, and accelerate growth; however, due to complex processes, there are often multiple systems used to complete an intelligent operation.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for finance and operations helps you easily manage your finances, keep track of inventory levels, streamline your supply chain, manage projects more effectively, and much more. You can even use it to help you run clinical trials—helping you stay on top of data collection from start to finish.

As mentioned earlier, the entire industry is often under immense pressure to improve efficiency and cut costs to maximize profitability while maintaining a high level of patient care. However, these companies also need an easy way to make changes that will affect every aspect of their business – especially when undergoing rapid growth, a growing trend among companies of all sizes.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers you all these tools to easily streamline operations across all departments in your company, ensuring each department communicates effectively and works together towards one goal – business success.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for finance and operations is an accounting system at its core, so it tracks how much money comes into your business and how much goes out of it daily. This data will help you determine what areas of your business are most profitable and where there might be room for improvement regarding efficiency or cutting costs.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 also offers several features specifically geared toward companies with complex supply chains, such as inventory management, order tracking, contract management, demand forecasting, production planning, etc., helping you keep everything organized from start to finish—no matter where any part of your supply chain happens to be located.

Next steps

Suppose your company wants to implement intelligent operations and partner with a tech firm with expertise in MSD operations management. The right partner can help you tailor your processes for success, guide implementation efforts to keep costs under control and provide support throughout the implementation of your new infrastructure.

In some cases, technology implementation can be accelerated by identifying internal resources that have demonstrated leadership abilities and a strong track record in operations-related roles. Partnering with an experienced operational systems partner will bring additional value to your investment by ensuring that you choose functionalities beyond what is available out of the box from your ERP provider.

Partnering with a suitable systems integrator who understands your industry can be valuable to your business. They can help make your processes smoother and navigate obstacles in your path that would typically slow you down. The result is streamlined processes that experienced, qualified professionals facilitate.

They are fast matters as much as accuracy and quality do—especially when getting new medicines approved for the market. Any delays in production or shipping could cause setbacks for clinical trials or delays in marketing approvals.

Contact us today to learn more

Level up your supply chain

Level up your supply chain

Level up your supply chain 700 500 Xcelpros Team


The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the global supply chain. While eCommerce and online retail are uniquely positioned for rapid growth in today’s business climate, companies with traditional or linear supply chain models find it harder to adapt.

Thankfully, this change has led to the emergence of advanced technologies, which provide a unique opportunity for organizations to leverage the digital supply chain network to reach new levels of operational effectiveness. This guide to digital supply chain transformation is full of helpful information for businesses looking to adapt to the new paradigm to develop their supply chain into a more collaborative model.

Understanding Digital Supply Chain Management and Supply Chain 4.0

Today, Supply Chain 4.0 refers to introducing advanced technologies, like Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, blockchain, AI / ML, autonomous mobile robotics (AMR), and more. These new technologies enable the reorganization of traditional supply chains into the interconnected, open supply chain operations we know as the Digital Supply Network (DSN).

This shift from sequential supply chain operations to his new digital model sets the foundation for how companies will compete in the future by integrating information from different sources and locations to:

  • Better response to changing market conditions
  • Drive production and distribution,
  • Create a digital record of the supply chain,
  • Enable advanced analytics of real-time data, and
  • Translate actions from digital inputs into physical outcomes.

Whether you consider this new supply chain model as a set of supply chain management best practices or simply a cluster of technologies to be deployed, Supply Chain 4.0 provides substantial opportunities for companies to enhance the productivity, profitability, and performance of their unique supply chain.

Supply Chain Digitization is no longer an option

According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, digitization of the supply chain is the largest trend affecting companies in the post-Covid environment.

“Companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years.”

Figure: 1Digitalization of customer interactions

Digitalization of customer interactions

When asked why their organizations did not implement changes to their supply chain before the pandemic, more than fifty percent of respondents said that supply chain digitization was not a top business priority. The Covid-19 crisis has eliminated this barrier and highlighted the need for modernization.

Executive leadership teams are now highly motivated to implement new supply chain risk mitigation strategies designed to alleviate the impact of current supply chain disruptions, as well as ant future global crises.

Consumer expectations are also on the rise: the online trend of the last several years has led to higher service expectations, and a much stronger granularization of orders. If supply chain operations want to keep up with customer service, order fulfillment, delivery, and other “value-added” tasks, more comprehensive, enterprise-wide overhauls will be required.

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Benefits of Modern Supply Chain Management

Modernization of supply chains enables companies to not only address changing requirements and overcome global supply challenges but also improve the overall speed, efficiency and performance of their entire operation.

Improve Proactive Decision-Making

Traditional supply chains utilize top-down management and communication for merchants and vendors alike. Distributors looking to grow their product lines tend to focus on reconciliation, monitoring, and reporting defects, delays, or other types of disruptions early on in the supply chain cycle.

Monitoring tools, modern ERPs, and other digital solutions help companies make better proactive decisions that increase efficiency, remove waste, and keep operations running smoothly.

Increase Agility and Avoid Disruption

The Covid-19 pandemic proved that flexible supply chains are susceptible to unpredictable economic changes, natural disasters, and political pressure. Digitizing your supply chains provides excellent supplier diversification and makes it easier to enact sourcing changes, especially during hard times.

Create a More Resilient Supply Chain

The most resilient supply chains are built on a solid foundation of transparency and efficiency that enables them to scale and adjust as circumstances change. This flexibility provides greater freedom for businesses when onboarding new suppliers, particularly in new industries or geographies. Resilient supply chains also help organizations better respond to changing demand, launch new product lines or roll out support to additional regions.

Digital Supply Chain Tips: How to Build a Digital Supply Chain

Creating a modern supply chain is an enormous undertaking. Still, this article will help prepare you for your digital transformation and make integrating advanced technology easier for everyone involved in the process.

Define Your Vision

Start with a clear vision that aligns with your enterprise goals. These goals should be related to specific business objectives, and include things like:

  • Improved supply chain visibility,
  • Better and faster decision-making,
  • Automated operations, and
  • Integrated customer engagement.

Assess Existing Resources

The next step in digital transformation is identifying the things you need to achieve your goals. The best way to identify those capabilities is to scrutinize your existing resources alongside the new technologies that might replace them. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Data collection and analysis – Can data be accessed quickly and used to draw actionable insights?
  • Legacy systems – Will existing systems support your new goals? Is the technology aligned with business objectives? Are these digital solutions best suited to achieve the desired outcomes?
  • Workforce skills – Does your workforce have the skills to work with and adapt to the new business model?

Utilize Data and Analytics

In a modern digital network, supply chain professionals can rely on real-time data to make informed decisions and collaborate effectively with suppliers, partners, and more. Access to real-time data also enhances visibility across the supply chain and helps supply chain managers identify potential disruptions before they happen.

Final Thoughts

Moving towards a more modern supply chain will become more and more critical to capturing new markets in the future. Developing your supply chain into a flexible, open, agile and collaborative digital model requires an enterprise-wide approach, careful planning, and close collaboration with internal teams and partners.

Need help with legacy solutions and ageing customizations. Implementing modern enterprise resource planning software like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management can help you achieve a 360-degree view of your supply chain, better anticipate potential disruption to your operation, and adjust before it becomes a problem.

References: Supply Chain 4.0 – the next-generation digital supply chain

The need for data to transform industrial operations

How Data Management Helps in Optimizing the Manufacturing Process

How Data Management Helps in Optimizing the Manufacturing Process 700 500 Xcelpros Team


What side of the Covid-19 divide is your company on? Are you still trying to do business the same way you were before the pandemic? Or are you adapting to a more modern world, ready to use technology to help your business grow?

Either way, it’s clear the effects of the pandemic are still being felt throughout the business world and were likely to see the same results for much longer.

45% of respondents were dealing with sudden materials shortages

41% percent saw sharp drops in demand

30% percent were experiencing worker unavailability

Source: McKinsey

Each of these effects adds increased strain to supply chains worldwide. One such issue saw 111 cargo ships off Long Beach, California, on November 10, 2021. No matter what your company produces, odds are some of your products were stuck on those ships. Newly enacted—but not imposed—“container dwell” cargo container fees reduced the line of ships.

Four foundational technologies can be applied to the value chain, according to McKinsey:

  • Connectivity, data and computational power, which includes the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and blockchain
  • Analytics and intelligence in the form of advanced analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence
  • Human-machine interactions using virtual and augmented reality plus robots and automation
  • Advanced engineering, which includes using renewable energy and additive manufacturing

Some companies are using these technologies to drive growth through process optimization.

Benefits of Process Optimization

Process optimization in manufacturing covers three vital areas:

  1. 1.Improved machine uptime. Using a data-based approach, companies can reduce downtime and increase the overall use of their equipment, Machine Metrics states. Using advanced analytics, companies can determine the causes of unplanned downtime. Clean, clear data lets manufacturers attack the worst offenders first.
  2. 2.Faster responses to issues at the machine level. Analytics looking at alarms and where workers are when they occur helps improve training, equipment layout, and other issues.
  3. 3.Improved maintenance. Using IoT sensors, the equipment can be used until it nears—but does not reach—the point of failure. Parts are replaced when needed instead of too early or only after a key machine is shut down.

Each of these steps involves digital manufacturing operations applied to the overall manufacturing process.

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Digital Equipment Is Critical

The only way to achieve these goals is by collecting and thoroughly analyzing data. Objectively analyzing data lets managers discover where bottlenecks are occurring and what’s causing them.

Downtime analysis lets managers analyze why some machines are down more often than others. Are they not operating because of unplanned maintenance, a lack of personnel, jobs, or machine setup, or is it something else?

Having computers perform predictive analysis, companies estimate when a tool will need replacing before it damages a machine or wipes out products.

Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is another way of looking at the production process. Lean manufacturing looks at a plant’s current process and asks: how can it be done more efficiently? How can the company’s goals be achieved while paying less for energy, such as by using energy from renewable sources, and also generating less waste? How can waste items be used to lower operating costs?

Examples include using “waste” to create new products, replace existing packaging, or fueling an on-site power plant.

Companies following a lean strategy seek to reduce and ideally eliminate waste, improve quality, cut costs and reduce time, according to TWI Global.

In an online article on Lean Manufacturing, TWI Global states there are now eight “wastes” in lean manufacturing:

  1. 1.Unnecessary transportation
  2. 2.Excess inventory
  3. 3.Unnecessary movement of people, equipment or machinery
  4. 4.Idle people or equipment
  5. 5.Over-production of a product
  6. 6.Making a product overly complex by adding unneeded features
  7. 7.Defects that are expensive to repair
  8. 8.Unused talent and ingenuity

While lean manufacturing has three benefits—saving time and money, being environmentally friendly, and improving customer satisfaction—it also has three disadvantages. These are:

  1. 1.Placing employee safety and wellbeing below achieving company goals
  2. 2.Focusing on the present and not on the future
  3. 3.Lacking a standardized method

Companies will want to balance the benefits and the costs to see if lean manufacturing works for them.

Recycling and Green Manufacturing

Green manufacturing seeks to reduce environmental impacts while still producing quality products. This includes source reduction to reduce the waste initially created. Recycling—using or reusing wastes as ingredients in a process or as a substitute for original feedstock—and green product design are key components.

In a report by two Carnegie Mellon researchers, the top waste minimization actions cited by large hazardous waste generators include:

  • Improved maintenance schedule, recordkeeping or procedures: 8.9%
  • Other changes in operating practices other than different equipment: 8.0%
  • Raw materials substitution: 7.1%
  • Unspecified source reduction activity: 6.5%
  • Stopped combining hazardous and non-hazardous waste: 5.1%
  • Ensuring materials were not in inventory past their shelf-life: 4.1%

Each of these green methods involves cost. They provide opportunities to expand a company’s supply chain in terms of raw materials sources while opening the door for new and different products.

Determining What Works Best

Ultimately, companies must find a combination of production process optimization methods that work best for them and their customers.

One common requirement shared by Industry 4.0, process optimization, lean manufacturing, and green manufacturing, is a requirement for data: the more accurate the data, the more accurate the forecasts and predictions.

Obtaining this information requires sensors that can measure flow and wear. On top of that, you need software that aligns the entire operation, from executive suites to the shop floor. It requires a digital network to help ensure consistent product quality, integrates with the shop floor, control waste, and spot opportunities.

Final Thoughts: Five Ideas to Spur Innovation and Growth

Competing in today’s technological world requires a willingness of top management to examine the production process and ask:

How can we do more with less? Consider these five ideas that may help your company achieve its goals.

  1. 1. Work with an innovation partner that can help your company gather the data it needs to grow.
  2. 2. Create a plan that covers your immediate needs while allowing room for growth, including in unexpected directions.
  3. 3. Include training existing employees and hiring new ones with the skills you need not only today but will require in one, two and five years. These people can help ensure you grow the way you want.
  4. 4. Invest in IoT sensors, especially at critical points in the production process. The sensors provide the data you need to make the hard decisions.
  5. 5. Spend the money now on modular software that provides the necessary control and data analysis. A modular system lets you start with one piece, such as Supply Chain Management, and then add others when the budget permits.

Five Steps to Transforming Manufacturing Operations

Five Steps to Transforming Manufacturing Operations

Five Steps to Transforming Manufacturing Operations 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Lasting effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continue to disrupt numerous manufacturing operations as the year draws to a close. Companies not only surviving, but thriving were those already undergoing a digital transformation to their manufacturing operations.

“Digital transformation is the transformation of business, industrial products, operations, value chains and services that are enabled through the augmentation of people, knowledge and workplaces through the expanded use of digital technologies. It’s about the people in the workplaces, the processes, the technologies and services,” Janice Abel wrote in an ARC Advisory Group blog post.

Today, digital transformation is all about rethinking the way your company functions. Is it a series of departments that act like independent nations, each competing for scarce resources and seldom sharing information? Or is your company a unified operation where department names are merely labels and the data created by one is open and accessible to all?

At the end of the day, digital transformation in manufacturing is all about enhancing customer service. Taking good care of your customers leads to more sales, better growth opportunities and higher profits. Achieving that goal requires breaking down barriers and ensuring free-flowing information between all employeesF.

Sharing this data in a timely fashion requires a manufacturing execution system (MES) and a manufacturing operations management (MOM) process. MES is computer software, while MOM may be software or an overarching process. An MES helps track raw material consumption during production. A material resource planning (MRP) package helps you prepare your production inventory.

According to an ARC survey, most manufacturers deploy MES solutions to connect the information in different silos and plants. While there is some visibility, data silos remain even though artificial intelligence (AI), machine intelligence (MI) and other digital methods are being used to varying degrees.

Driving Digital Transformation

Ongoing supply chain disruptions are having a huge impact on manufacturing companies. When questioned about the resilience of their manufacturing and supply chains, the overwhelming response was “not very,” according to a recent blog by Forbes.

Forbes posted some response numbers from the Fictiv 2021 State of Manufacturing Report about existing supply chains:

  • 94% of respondents had some concerns
  • 55% worry that increasing digital operations increases security risks
  • 47% state that supply chain management overhead costs are too high
  • 42% believe that working with global markets creates intellectual property risks
  • 31% think that lack of visibility into operations creates risks and uncertainty

The Fictiv report quoted by Forbes concluded: “The way we manage supply chains and manufacture goods has been forever altered.

Cost overruns were a key concern for 81 percent of recipients while 55 percent were worried about information technology security with their current supply chain.

“Whatever the issue, it’s clear the old way of operating is no longer optimal,” Forbes states. Using digital methods to manage manufacturing has essentially replaced the older methods, at least according to this survey.

  • 95% of respondents believe digitally transforming their manufacturing operations is essential to their company’s future
  • 91% of respondents reported an increase in digital transformation spending
  • 77% defined their digital spending boost as “dramatic” or “significant.”

A Different Perspective

Digital technology enhances productivity, reduces costs and boosts innovation. Manufacturing companies that pay careful attention to their data are able to use it more efficiently to help find and develop new revenue streams.

Figure: 1 How the Internet of Things (IoT) is integrated with Operating Technology (OT)

How the Internet of Things (IoT) is integrated with Operating Technology

At its core, the currency of automation, optimization and profound transformation can help turn new business models into an “as a service” economy, I-scoop suggests.

Many companies transform their manufacturing operations by using the internet of things (IoT) coupled with operational technology (OT) and automation on the production floor. IoT sensors in many devices let computer programs track data as each potential product makes its way through the production process.

Mechanical engineers are able to maintain equipment to more refined levels of precision. Software engineers are using the data provided to reduce waste and find new ways of boosting efficiency. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software uses the data to ensure machines are scheduled efficiently. The ERP software helps ensure a near continuous flow of material, even when humans aren’t present.

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Roadmap to Your Digital Transformation

The first step for companies yet to embark on their digital transformation is creating a roadmap. Without understanding what direction you want your business to go and how to get there, any results are likely to be far less than desired.

At a bare minimum, formulating a plan ahead of time helps:

  • Set priorities
  • Manage change
  • Identify and allocate resources

A well thought-out roadmap can help plan your entire journey, or identify problems and new opportunities as you work towards your goal.

Major steps in creating a digital manufacturing roadmap include:

1.Clearly define and help your company’s current position and its digital strategy. Stating concrete, achievable goals and then communicating them with partners, employees and clients helps everyone understand what they need to do so that everyone benefits.

2.Defining your financial baseline. Making demands of whatever system you choose to go with, only to balk at the resulting price, is no benefit to anyone. Having a plan to only move to the next digital manufacturing transformation phase when you reach specific financial goals makes financial sense and motivates to reach those incremental goals.

3.Ensuring internal Agile processes are ready to go. Breaking your production process into smaller chunks lets you create products and services faster by having processes run concurrently instead of sequentially.

4.Assessing your technology and talent. Understanding what equipment you need, and what skills are required to operate it, lets you start training existing staff or adding new employees ahead of time. Having people who know what they are doing as you implement each phase ensures your digital transformation proceeds smoothly.

5.Choosing the right digital transformation partner. Having a partner experienced in your industry means they’re likely familiar with any problems you may face. Having seen them before, they already know what solutions work and what is a waste of your money. The right partner can also help you set short- and medium-term goals, ensuring your transformation is progressing according to plan.

Final Thoughts

Embarking on a new digital transformation pays numerous benefits in the long run. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to rapidly respond to customer requests for new or unique products, resulting in more efficient MAAS (manufacturing as a service).

The most important thing to remember when looking to complete your transformation is the need for a detailed roadmap and ensuring you have a digital transformation partner who understands your industry and can help you overcome any hurdles along the way.

Challenge of Manufacturing Transformations

The Challenges of Manufacturing Transformations

The Challenges of Manufacturing Transformations 700 500 Xcelpros Team


“Cutthroat and quick.” Those two words sum up the state of the modern manufacturing industry. Customers want the lowest possible prices, abandoning long-term relationships to save money. They also want their products and they want them Now. It makes no difference to some companies that the containers that move their goods are stuck on a freightliner offshore: the client wants their goods this instant.

So how can an older company known for producing quality merchandise compete with the upstarts? The answer is by digitally transforming its operations.

Key parts of this transformation involve:

  • Automation
  • The Internet of Things
  • Using AI (artificial intelligence)
  • Upgraded equipment
  • Enhanced cybersecurity
  • An emphasis on “going green

The good news is each of these challenges can be overcome, leading to a company that is leaner, greener and in terms of the competition, meaner. The bad news is doing it requires planning, forethought and a willingness to disrupt the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.

There are three key components for a successful digital transformation:

  1. 1.A change champion to push, prod, cajole, criticize and even complain to keep the project moving on track.
  2. 2.A trained consultant, one experienced in performing similar upheavals at other companies in the same or related industries.
  3. 3.A suite of products that can be customized to meet your specific needs.

1.Change Champions Drive Innovation

One of the reasons why some businesses fail when attempting to modernize is mindset: leadership is unwilling to abandon the old ways, not only of doing business, but of thinking. A change champion who has the authority to drive modernization is a key player in bringing any company from the 20th Century into the always-changing 21st.

Often described as “a mono-maniac with a mission,” change champions are the people who ensure new technology gets adopted. They work-hopefully with the support of top management-to drag their company forward.

“A good champion is passionate about their cause or change. They are staunch, zealous, and even fanatic. A great champion is emotional, irrational, irreverent, impatient and unreasonable. They want the change – no matter how big – to happen this week, this month, or certainly by the end of this quarter. To an impassioned change champion, the sky is often falling and the situation is desperately urgent,” Innovation Management states.

Overcoming management inertia is one challenge facing digital transformation in manufacturing. This is critical because AcqNotes looked at several studies and concluded that the failure rate of software projects range between 50 percent – 80 percent.

Causes of failure include:

  • Lack of user participation
  • Changing requirements
  • Unrealistic or unarticulated project goals
  • Poor communication among customers, developers, and users
  • Poor Project Management
  • Stakeholder politics
  • Lack of Stakeholder involvement

Some of the worst software acquisition practices include:

  • Using schedule compression to justify new technology on a time-critical project
  • Expecting to recover more than 10 percent schedule slip without a reduction in delivered functionality
  • Putting items out of project control on the critical path
  • Planning to achieve more than 10 percent improvement from observed past performance
  • Burying as much of the project complexity as possible in the software as opposed to the hardware
  • Conducting critical system engineering tasks without software expertise
  • Believing that formal reviews alone will provide an accurate picture of the project
  • Expecting that the productivity of a formal review is directly proportional to the number of attendees above five

Effective change champions working with top management backing-president, board level and/or owner-can overcome these hurdles.

Change Champions work with consultants experienced in helping manufacturers adopt a digital mindset. Knowledgeable consultants with a good track record for installing well-known, proven enterprise resource planning (ERP) products like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance can help change champions in their goal to convince naysayers to the project.

2.Digital Transformation Consultants

Before looking at the role of a consultant, examine one of many definitions for digital transformation.

Figure: 1Digital transformation for manufacturing

Digital transformation for manufacturing

“Digital Transformation is the profound transformation of business and organizational activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of a mix of digital technologies and their accelerating impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way, with present and future shifts in mind,” several websites state.

Digital transformation for manufacturing has several important-and ultimately, profitable-benefits.

They include:

  • Greater efficiency through streamlined processes and decisions
  • Improved productivity as automation lets skilled workers spend their time and attention on critical, rather than mundane, tasks
  • Insights letting executives understand why projects failed and how they can succeed the next time
  • Enhanced customer service aimed at a global, 24/7/365 audience
  • Finding competitive advantages where they may not have existed before

Once Change Champions help executives understand what a digital transformation is and what it can do, the next key step is hiring a consultant to help them plot a course. A lack of any plan, or even deviating from the plan is a recipe for disaster.

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A digital transformation consultant’s role is helping an organization understand how it can achieve its medium and long-term goals, ultimately becoming more profitable by using technology to implement strategic changes. Common steps taken by consultants, such as the technology strategists and road mappers, begins with:

  1. 1.Assessing each customer’s current position and its needs.
  2. 2.Developing implementation strategies specific for each client company.
  3. 3.Convincing management and staff that while change is always hard, their lives will be easier and more productive in the long run.
  4. 4.Working with the firm to ensure the implementation meets the company’s goals, offering advice and potential fixes for any roadblocks that appear.
  5. 5.After the implementation is complete, they review what happened. What went right? What didn’t go as planned? How can we learn from any failures in this phase to make the next phase smoother?

3.The Software

Whichever software package suggested by consultants that the company accepts, must be:

  • An industry leader
  • Safe and secure from digital threats
  • Easy for employees to use
  • Expandable when growth occurs
  • Customizable to meet company-specific needs
  • Flexible to meet the needs of a changing world economy, one currently suffering major supply chain disruptions
  • Able to be implemented in stages that allow the company to keep operating during the installation

Microsoft Dynamics 365 checks all of these boxes. Built on Microsoft’s Azure platform, it offers flexibility by having individual modules such as Sales, Finance and Supply Chain Management that can be installed as needed. More than just easy to use, D365 offers a familiar look and feel with most administrative staffers using Office 365. Security is built-in both through extra layers in the Azure platform and in Microsoft’s cloud architecture. D365 is also easily expandable, letting the software expand as the company grows.

The Bottom Line

Overcoming the challenges of a digital transformation in manufacturing requires having a Change Champion with the power to keep the company on track. It requires trained, experienced consultants that help the company understand what it wants to do and how to achieve its medium and long-term goals. And it requires software that can meet a company’s needs today, tomorrow and in the foreseeable future.

Process and systems to support the bio-economy banner

Process and systems to support the Bioeconomy

Process and systems to support the Bioeconomy 700 500 Xcelpros Team

The public benefit gained through biological research can be seen through the eyes of a patient who receives a critical medication that did not exist a decade ago, a farmer whose higher-yield crops are turned into fuels, food, and intermediate chemicals, and a small-business owner whose innovative biobased products are breaking new ground in manufacturing. Increased societal needs for food and energy, combined with new knowledge/discoveries in biology and new methods for harnessing biological processes, have dramatically increased the economic potential of the bioeconomy.The National Bioeconomy Blueprint


Though written in 2012, The National Bioeconomy Blueprint contains some information valuable to any company wanting to explore the bioeconomy. Critical elements are investments in research and technology.

“… If we want the next big breakthrough, the next big industry to be an American breakthrough, an American industry, then we can’t sacrifice these investments in research and technology,” then-President Barack Obama says in the report. The White House authored the report.

Government agencies at the time were supporting the bioeconomy by:

  • Identifying research and development (R&D) methods
  • Developing foundational transformative technologies
  • Integrating approaches from engineering, physical sciences and computers
  • Improving predictions of vaccine and drug toxicity and efficacy
  • Identifying and characterizing any microbial organism, including purely synthetic versions
  • Creating “science enclaves” that allow analysis of large, complex datasets while maintaining proprietary information.

The report also wanted American industry to increase investment in and production of biofuels, replacing fossil fuels with biomass systems.

Other tasks cited in the report included converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuels, improving biofuel and energy crops, developing new agricultural research programs that drive job creation and transforming manufacturing through bioinnovation.

Some of these tasks have already shown results.

Recent Biotechnical Innovations

A 2020 post on the Klabtree Blog lists 10 biotech innovations.

One of them is CRISPR-based platforms. An acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, CRISPR technology was used to create the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. Other medicines are also using the same technology.

The CRISPR tool, “is based on a system that bacteria use to fight viruses. Bacteria develop clustered repeated sequences in their DNA, known as CRISPRs, that can remember dangerous viruses and then deploy RNA-guided scissors to destroy them,” an article in Time magazine states.

Unlike a DNA-based product that targets a cell’s nucleus, messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines just need to get into the more accessible outer regions of cells where proteins are built.

Using CRISPR technology to accomplish this task, both companies were able to produce Covid-19 vaccines that meet FDA emergency standards. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now known as Comirnaty, uses its regular, non-emergency procedures. The “regular” and “emergency” variations share the same formula, the FDA states.

Another technological innovation cited by KolabTree that is still being developed involves using DNA as a computer hard drive. The concept would turn cells into data storage chambers with the not-yet-realized ability to store information similar to current data storage.

A third innovation is using base pairings of DNA and RNA nucleotides in what is known as “DNA origami” after the Japanese paper folding art form. Nanovery is using this technology to create diagnostic nanorobots. The robots are inserted into a blood sample. When cancerous DNA is found, the robots light up.

Bioeconomy Business Strategies

Having the technology to turn biological products such as corn husks into fuel does not generate money. Having people who can see profits in the bioeconomy does.

“Entrepreneurs can contribute to the (bioeconomy transformation) by commercializing innovative technologies through startups and new business models,” Andreas Kuckertz writes in a white paper published through

Figue: 1Bioeconomy Business Strategies

Bioeconomy Business Strategies

Using his research, key strategies for the United States mentioned by the author include:

  • Regulatory framework: Creation of tax breaks, reducing regulatory barriers and helping entrepreneurs obtain and defend patents
  • Market Conditions: Use the public procurement process to speed market adoption
  • Access to Finance: Support the bioeconomy by using venture capital for startups
  • Knowledge Creation and Diffusion: Educate entrepreneurs, connect them to mentors and educate government agencies about entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurial Capabilities: Enhance university entrepreneurship
  • Culture: Create an overview of available prizes and awards (mentioned in the National Bioeconomy Blueprint)

Kuckertz suggests modifying these strategies to include those that are:

  • Holistic and based on a clear, causal rationale
  • Include policies with measures tied to clear key performance indicators (KPIs) that can measure progress
  • Have, “dedicated innovation programs accounting for the specifics of bioeconomic innovation will be required to recognize the potential of many promising and possibly game-changing entrepreneurial initiatives.”

While Kuckertz’s comments are oriented at new business development, these same strategies can be used by existing companies. One way is by taking advantage of current cutting-edge business technology: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

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Common Themes in Bioeconomy Products

Each of the previous technological innovations has at least three common themes:

  1. 1.Collecting massive quantities of data, also known as “big data.”
  2. 2.Analyzing it and making sense of what is found. Researchers can pour over spreadsheets and try to understand the data or they can use software. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence software helps find the nuggets. These are the test samples that show a formula’s promise while also listing all of the others that don’t.
  3. 3.Safely storing this information away from prying eyes and competitors.

The good news for many companies is the technology to accomplish these three tasks exists today.

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) lets companies gather big data. ERP software is adept at many tasks, one of which is using artificial intelligence (AI) to provide business insights.

Cloud data storage is generally considered to be more secure than that on many small and medium business (SMB) internal networks, using the Microsoft Azure platform to run Windows-based products, adding extra layers of security and reliability.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI is designed to help businesses gather insights into customer needs and experiences. It helps companies accelerate a single process and lets groups solve problems and make decisions based on the data.

Microsoft Azure’s cloud computing service provides a stronger, safer and much more resilient computing platform than the average SMB network. It also has the advantage of making data easily accessible from anywhere in the world, all without compromising data security.

The Bottom Line

The bioeconomy is slowly making inroads into various industries. The chemical and pharmaceutical fields are perfectly set-up to take advantage of reusable biological materials such as corn husks for fuel. Other materials can be used to produce less toxic plant-based solvents.

Making money from the bioeconomy requires not only forward-thinking investors who care about the environment, but also advanced technology like Microsoft Dynamics 365 to make sense of it all.

How Sustainable Operations Helps Manufacturers Grow

How Sustainable Operations Helps Manufacturers Grow

How Sustainable Operations Helps Manufacturers Grow 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Every business leader has heard the term “sustainable manufacturing,” but not all know that practicing methods that help the environment can also grow their business.

“Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources,” the United States Environmental Protection Agency states. These same practices enhance employee, community and product safety in part by producing less waste that pollutes the air, water and soil.

According to the EPA, companies that use a methodical, planned approach to sustainable manufacturing processes:

  • Increase operational efficiency by reducing costs and waste
  • Respond to or reach new customers and increase competitive advantage
  • Protect and strengthen brand and reputation and build public trust
  • Build long-term business viability and success
  • Respond to regulatory constraints and opportunities

Fostering Growth

These environmentally friendly sustainable manufacturing practices help companies grow by reducing production costs long term. For example, instead of paying thousands of dollars each month to an electric company to light and cool a 300,000 square-foot manufacturing plant, consider covering a flat roof with efficient solar panels.

The average payback time for a home solar electric installation (industrial estimates were not available) is roughly 6-10 years, though it varies depending on the climate and other factors. Solar panels also tend to last 25-40 years meaning roughly three-quarters of their useful lives is spent generating free electricity. The most recent designs are much more efficient, producing more power in a smaller size, than those made 10 years ago. The result is greater efficiency, allowing manufacturing facilities to cover less of their roofs while producing as much or more power than the older models.

Production plants can also reduce their massive electrical bills with skylights. The waterproof domed coverings help illuminate work areas, reducing the need of electric lighting. Extended exterior shelves can reduce sunlight, cutting cooling costs.

Figure: 1 Sustainable Manufacturing – a Big Picture

Sustainable Manufacturing - a Big Picture

Turning Trash Into Treasure

Other sustainable methods look at ways to reduce waste, especially by converting some “trash” into new products or using it for new methods.

One website alone lists 35 artful ways homeowners can recycle wooden pallets. These new uses include making tables, bed frames, stairs, mounting frames for heavy electronic display monitors and a host of other uses. Many of these same methods work for industrial companies in terms of outfitting conference rooms and other non-work areas.

From an industrial perspective, worn pallets can be repaired, cleaned and reused. They can also be sold, recouping some of the cost. Other uses for worn pallets include chipping them, turning them into wood pellets. The pellets can then be burned, generating heat and electricity.

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Cascading Chemicals

Recycling is a large part of the sustainable “green” economy. Industrial chemicals can be recycled. They can also be reused through a process known as “industrial symbiosis,” states. One example cited uses ferric chloride, which is a byproduct of steel pickling in hydrochloric acid, to treat water.

“Frequently, recycled chemicals are not only cheaper than newly produced ones, but they also reduce resource consumption, waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon emissions through solvent recycling are 46 percent – 92 percent lower than those of new solvent production,” the website states.

When the article was written in 2019, industrial giants Siemens and Evonik were conducting research to convert the most common greenhouse gas—carbon dioxide (CO2)—into common industrial chemicals such as ethylene.

Other methods used to reduce chemical and industrial waste cited by greenbiz include swapping what might be one manufacturer’s trash with a different nearby business. That business can use these materials in its products.

Another environmentally friendly industrial method is “leasing” chemicals. In this model, a manufacturer sells the functions performed by the chemical using functional units, not the chemicals themselves.

Large manufacturers with their own wastewater treatment plants can redesign those facilities in ways that help the company turn a profit and grow. Companies interested in practicing sustainable manufacturing practices can modify existing equipment to produce energy, clean water and chemicals because, “the future of sewage is power and profits.”

The article ends with a quote made in 1848 by the former president of the London Royal College of Chemistry, R.W. Hoffmann: “In an ideal chemical factory there is, strictly speaking, no waste but only products. The better a real factory makes use of its waste, the closer it gets to its ideal, the bigger is the profit.”

Technology Can Spot Opportunities

One way a company can practice sustainable operations management is by using its data wisely. Especially in forward-thinking firms that use internet of things (IoT)-enabled devices, they have access to mountains of information.

Combining a well-thought plan with the right software lets these firms look at everything coming into their warehouse—including packaging—as potential profit sources. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) products such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 and its Supply Chain Management Module let companies of any size keep accurate track of their inventories. Add in the Integrated Chemical Management component and chemical manufacturers have an accurate label management solution that also produces safety data sheets.

By understanding the chemicals involved and working with sustainability experts, plant managers can evaluate their current conditions.

Executives interested in sustainable production and consumption—and being more competitive—will want to ask questions similar to these: What current waste products and materials can we use for secondary purposes or repackage and sell to someone in a different industry? Can we reuse packing materials we receive to pad and protect outgoing shipments? Are we using our raw materials effectively or are there ways we can become more efficient? How much power do our plants use? Are there affordable ways of reducing that consumption while also generating some of our own power all while meeting our long-term business goals?

Asking questions like these, and then using powerful software to find the answers, help innovative firms generate more money. That in turn can use sustainable practices to fuel growth.

The Bottom Line

Sustainable manufacturing involves looking at everything a company has, from a different angle. More office employees are working from home, freeing up space. Can we use that space for a different purpose instead of looking at empty desks? Can we move items around and expand our production facilities or our warehouse without having to build or buy new facilities?

Operations managers wanting to fuel growth by reducing power consumption can use ERP software to find ways to save money and new ways to make money. All it takes is a little outside the box long-range thinking.

A Comprehensive Approach to Digital Transformation in the Chemical Industry

5 moves to make during a digital transformation

5 moves to make during a digital transformation 700 500 Xcelpros Team

5 moves to make during a digital transformation

Based on a wonderful piece from our friends over at McKinsey, A Global survey of executives to determine the best moves to make for businesses looking for a smooth digital transformation representing the best path forward regardless of organization size. Understanding where to focus let’s you streamline the way your business works.

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