IoT and Cybersecurity

Internet of Things (IoT) & Cybersecurity : Challenges, Benefits & Solutions

Internet of Things (IoT) & Cybersecurity : Challenges, Benefits & Solutions 700 500 Xcelpros Team

Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things (IoT): Introduction

Defining the Internet of Things (IoT) can be tricky, as it covers a vast network of connected devices, such as medical implants, machinery, appliances, vehicles, and other devices embedded with sensors, software, and cloud connectivity. In the industrial world, you will find a variety of “smart” devices that collect and exchange data, enabling them to perform tasks on their own or with minimal human intervention. Typically, they share their data through a gateway or edge device, which sends it to the cloud for analysis or analyzes it locally.

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues transforming our lives by connecting more devices and systems, making them more intelligent and easier to use. However, whether categorized locally or in the cloud, these devices are susceptible to unauthorized access, theft, damage, or other security risks. To ensure smooth operations, protecting IoT devices via cybersecurity is crucial. There are methods and processes used to protect digital devices, networks, and sensitive information, which are called IoT security. Ideally, IoT security will mitigate or prevent cyber risks for these devices.

Most industries have already successfully implemented IoT technology and the companies using it benefit significantly from its benefits. For example, IoT sensors are used in the energy sector to monitor power consumption and optimize energy distribution. In retail, connected devices track inventory and improve supply chain management. In agriculture, IoT sensors monitor soil moisture levels and optimize crop growth.

In this article, we will discuss challenges and vulnerability of IoT to cyber-attacks, including the lack of security measures that could affect IoT networks and connected devices. We will also discuss the benefits of enhanced security, including improved efficiency, enhanced customer experiences through automation and personalization, and improved monitoring with real-time alerts.

As a bonus, we will highlight different solutions for securing your IoT devices, such as designing systems with security in mind, implementing network segmentation to isolate connected devices, and using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and respond to threats in real-time. Together, we will understand how unsecured IoT devices affect your business, and why security is and will continue to be an ongoing challenge.

Security Challenges with IoT

The number of IoT-enabled devices we connect with daily continues to grow at a blistering pace, from environmental controls and lights to the army of machines used to make them.

Figure 1:Challenges of IoT and Security

Challenges of IoT and Security

A connected device, sometimes called ‘an Internet of Things (IoT) device’, can be considered unsafe due to several factors. Here are some common reasons why an IoT device may be vulnerable to exploitation:

  1. 1.Weak or Default Credentials: IoT devices sometimes have default usernames and passwords, or users set weak passwords or fail to change the default credentials. Attackers can exploit this by quickly guessing or brute forcing the credentials to gain unauthorized access.
  2. 2.Outdated Firmware or Lack of Updates: Manufacturers can release devices with outdated firmware or fail to provide regular updates and security patches. These vulnerabilities can be exploited by attackers who know the weaknesses and can target the device accordingly.
  3. 3.Insecure Network Connections: Inadequate encryption protocols or the absence of secure communication channels between the IoT device and other systems can make the device susceptible to interception and unauthorized access. Attackers can eavesdrop on network traffic and potentially gain control over the device.
  4. 4.Inadequate Authentication and Authorization: Poorly implemented authentication and authorization mechanisms can enable attackers to bypass security measures and gain unauthorized access to the device or the network it is connected to.
  5. 5.Lack of Physical Security: If physical access to an IoT device is not adequately restricted, attackers can physically tamper with the device, extract sensitive data, or inject malicious code to compromise its functionality or gain control over connected systems.
  6. 6.Insecure Data Handling: Improper storage, transmission, or processing of data by the IoT device can lead to data breaches or leakage of sensitive information. Attackers may exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to valuable data or manipulate it maliciously.
  7. 7.Lack of Secure Software Development Practices: Insecure coding practices during the development of IoT device software can introduce vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows, injection attacks, or insecure data validation, making the device exploitable.

When an unsecure connected device is exploited, attackers can leverage it for various purposes. One reason is the creation of botnets and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Compromised IoT devices can be enlisted as part of a botnet, which is a network of infected devices under the control of an attacker. These botnets can launch DDoS attacks, overwhelming targeted systems or networks by flooding them with malicious traffic.

Another vulnerability in IoT devices is data theft or espionage, which can be exploited to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data stored on a device or transmitted across the cloud. This stolen data can then be used for crimes such as identity theft, financial fraud, or corporate espionage- expensive problems for companies to remedy after the fact. With security in place, these potential problems can be stopped via preventative measures before they even become a big problem.

Attackers will take advantage of any weakness to manipulate or gain control over IoT devices, compromising a device and all the others connected to it. This control grants them the ability to manipulate the device’s functionality, disrupt its operation, or even utilize it as a launching pad for additional attacks within the network. Compromised IoT devices, including home security cameras or smart speakers, can then be exploited to invade users’ privacy. Attackers can eavesdrop on conversations, capture audio or video, or track user activities, thereby violating their privacy and personal security.

Cyber-attacks on connected devices and networks can have devastating consequences, including the theft of sensitive information, the manipulation of data, or the complete shutdown of critical infrastructure.

  • According to a recent study by Symantec, IoT devices are attacked every two minutes, with an average of five attacks per device each month.
  • Another study from the IBM Security and Ponemon Institute found that a company’s average cost of a data breach in the United States is $8.19 million. These statistics highlight the significant impact of cyber-attacks on IoT devices and the need for improved cybersecurity measures.

To mitigate these risks, there are best practices businesses can follow such as:

  • Regularly updating device firmware
  • Using strong and unique credentials
  • Employing secure communication protocols
  • Implementing robust authentication and authorization mechanisms
  • Adopting secure coding practices during development or implementation of any IoT device(s).

The fact that so many devices lack security measures and are vulnerable to cyber-attacks makes it crucial for companies to invest in robust security systems for the protection of their devices and networks.

Benefits of Increased Cybersecurity

Despite inherent challenges, it is no secret that modern IoT technology offers businesses a wide range of benefits, including improved efficiency, cost reduction, enhanced customer experiences, and more.

Figure 2:Benefits of IoT and Cybersecurity

Benefits of IoT and Cybersecurity

For example, IoT sensors can be used to monitor and optimize supply chain management, reducing waste and improving delivery times. In manufacturing, IoT devices can be used to monitor equipment, predict maintenance needs, and prevent downtime, reducing costs and increasing productivity. IoT devices can even be used to collect data on customer behavior and preferences, enabling companies to provide personalized experiences and recommendations.

Most of the benefits of connected devices can only be fully realized when a business is confident in their plans to secure connected devices. Strong security for IoT devices is important for a many reasons:

  • Protection of Sensitive Data: IoT devices often handle and transmit sensitive data, such as personal information, financial details, or proprietary business data. Without robust cybersecurity measures, this data becomes vulnerable to theft, leading to monetary loss, identity theft, privacy breaches, or corporate espionage.
  • Safeguarding Operational Efficiency: IoT devices are designed to improve operational efficiency and streamline processes in various industries. However, if these devices are compromised, they can disrupt operations, cause system failures, or lead to downtime, resulting in significant financial losses and reputational damage.
  • Preserving Customer Trust: IoT devices interact with customers directly or handle their data, making data privacy and security crucial for maintaining customer trust. A security breach can erode customer confidence, leading to a loss of business and reputation.
  • Preventing Physical Damages: Certain IoT devices, such as those used in critical infrastructure or industrial control systems, have the potential to control physical processes and machinery. A cybersecurity breach in such devices can result in physical damage, accidents, or even danger to human lives.
  • Mitigating Network Risks: IoT devices are typically connected to larger networks, including corporate networks, cloud services, or the internet. Suppose a compromised IoT device is connected to these networks. In that case, it can serve as a launching pad for further attacks, potentially compromising other devices, systems, or sensitive data within the network.
  • Combating Botnets and DDoS Attacks: IoT devices have been used in large-scale botnets to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Proper cybersecurity measures can help prevent the hijacking of IoT devices for malicious purposes, protecting the devices and the broader internet infrastructure.
  • Regulatory Compliance: With the increasing concern about data protection and privacy, governments and regulatory bodies have introduced stringent regulations regarding the security of IoT devices. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in legal consequences, financial penalties, and reputational damage.
  • Long-Term Viability: Ensuring cybersecurity in IoT devices is crucial for their long-term viability. As the adoption of IoT continues to grow, attackers will increasingly target these devices. Manufacturers and businesses that prioritize security will be better positioned to adapt to evolving threats, gain a competitive advantage, and build sustainable IoT ecosystems.

Considering these factors, investing in robust security measures for IoT devices is essential to protect sensitive data, maintain operational efficiency, preserve customer trust, prevent physical damages, mitigate network risks, comply with regulations, and ensure long-term viability in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Solutions for IoT and Cybersecurity

While the challenge of securing your connected devices may seem daunting, there are several solutions that can help mitigate the risks and ensure the security of connected devices.

Figure 3:Solutions for Securing your Connected Devices

Solutions for Securing your Connected Devices

Here are a few practical solutions you can consider for your business:

Use strong authentication and access control:

Employ multi-factor authentication (MFA) and implement strict access control policies to verify user and device identities and restrict unauthorized interactions.

Keep firmware up to date:

Regularly update IoT device firmware with security patches and updates provided by manufacturers. Establish a proactive process for patch management to address vulnerabilities promptly.

Ensure secure communication:

Utilize secure communication protocols like TLS or SSH to encrypt data transmitted between devices, gateways, and backend systems, protecting data confidentiality and integrity.

Implement network segmentation:

Separate IoT devices into dedicated network segments to isolate them from critical systems and sensitive data, limiting potential lateral movement by attackers.

Follow secure development practices:

Incorporate secure coding and conduct regular security assessments during IoT device development to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities early on.

Encrypt and protect data:

Apply encryption to sensitive data stored on IoT devices and transmitted across networks. Implement data protection measures such as data-at-rest encryption and anonymization.

Implementing all or even a few of these solutions can significantly enhance the security posture of connected devices and decrease the potential risks associated with IoT and cybersecurity. It is essential to approach IoT security as a holistic and ongoing effort involving technical measures, policy implementation, and user awareness.


This post covered the challenges, benefits, and solutions associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and cybersecurity. The interconnected nature of IoT devices, coupled with their susceptibility to cyber-attacks, presents significant challenges. Nonetheless, the advantages of IoT underscore its importance across industries. Because of this, addressing cybersecurity concerns in IoT devices is of uppermost importance to prevent data breaches and safeguard sensitive information. As the amount of IoT devices continues to expand rapidly, maintaining vigilance and proactively bolstering cybersecurity measures is crucial.

Future advancements in IoT and cybersecurity can be anticipated, including developing more secure devices and systems and increasing the use of artificial intelligence for threat detection and response. Continuing to prioritize investment in creating secure IoT devices is essential to maximize the benefits of this technology while minimizing the associated cybersecurity risks.

Be confident in your company’s IoT security- contact us today for a no-obligation assessment from XcelPros, your trusted Microsoft Cloud Solution Partner (CSP).

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Staying ahead of the curve Warehouse Management Trends in 2022

Staying ahead of the curve: Warehouse Management Trends

Staying ahead of the curve: Warehouse Management Trends 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Remaining competitive in today’s global marketplace has become more important than ever. Consumer habits continue to change, and businesses are finding themselves stocking more and more items. An efficient warehouse management solution is the best way to ensure customer satisfaction at a time when everyone expects things like next-day delivery, BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup in Store), and more.

Thankfully, managing a growing SKU count is getting easier and the technology already exists to help improve your supply chain and bottom line.

Keeping an eye on the changing technology landscape is a good way to get started – here are some of the advanced warehouse management trends we’ve seen in 2022.


More warehouses are striving to be fully automated than ever before, from self-driving forklifts and automated inventory systems to sophisticated barcode scanning and sorting. Many companies see full automation as a cost-saving measure as they shift their budgets from human workers to technology – becoming more important as SKU counts continue to grow to meet consumer demand.

According to Capterra, 54% of warehouses plan to expand the number of inventory SKUs carried over the next five years.

Manufacturing plants have seen similar trends, with equipment automation replacing traditional manufacturing processes such as machining and assembly. You’ll need to think creatively about how automation can change your processes and make your jobs easier. Some innovations include adding robotics or autonomous vehicles into your delivery process; building more efficient ways to collect data; or developing mobile apps that make data easily accessible to your employees, wherever they are.

Sustainable Warehouse Solutions

Supply chains and warehouses have always been a driving force of the economy, and as we move into the future, warehouse management trends will continue to affect global supply chains. One of the most significant changes driving growth in sustainable warehouse solutions is increased consumer pressure for sustainable goods and services. Consumers want more transparency and accountability with their products, which improved tracking technologies can only achieve.

Another factor influencing this change is an increase in regulations governing environmental impact. For example, several European countries banned single-use plastic packaging earlier this year due to the damage it causes, leaving companies scrambling for viable alternatives, like bio-based plastics or renewable materials like bamboo.

Supply chain management solutions like Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 will play a vital role in managing inventory, assets and faults and improving compliance with regulatory bodies like the FDA, EPA, REACH and more.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things (IoT) technology in warehouse management continues to grow and offers new benefits like reduced costs, better forecasting, and easier scalability.

Sensors and cameras continue to improve, and newer RFID (radio frequency identification) tags or beacons tell you exactly where an item is at any given time.

The data collected from these sensors leads to a better customer experience because you know exactly how long it takes for a package to be delivered or whether there are any delays with your orders. This makes your warehouse inventory management easier.

When managing people, IoT technology will allow you to reduce overtime hours and increase efficiency. Using drones and autonomous vehicles lets you confidently adjust your business strategy by setting prices based on demand or supply chain availability.

Some experts predict that we’re nearing the point where IoT technology will be doing a lot more tedious work like stock picking and placing items into cartons—saving companies money and freeing up valuable labor hours for other things like customer service or development projects.

Wearable Technology

Technology is changing how work is done everywhere, and warehouse management is no exception. We already see hints that in the not-so-distant future, fewer people will work in warehouses due to the rise of wearable technology. Examples include Exo-suits, Smart Glasses and audio devices – powered devices designed to reduce physical requirements and give workers hands-free access to their data and instructions.

These devices could replace warehouse management equipment like head-up displays or tablets. Amazon, for example, has already patented a system allowing its employees to use wearable devices while at work. These devices focus on 100% accuracy thanks to the ability to fully validate your inventory.

Some analysts believe this trend would lead to higher costs for shipping companies and consumers because it would require new training programs, and many warehouses wouldn’t need human labor. Others feel these technologies might reduce costs because they increase productivity and reduce errors.

The fact remains that wearable technology holds exciting potential and could change the way we manage our warehousing processes. However, it’s still unclear exactly what effects it will have on business owners and consumers.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Even now, fulfillment centers are beginning to use augmented reality (AR) technology to help with logistics and planning. This trend is expected to grow and expand over the next few years.

There are many benefits, like training and easy visualization. Still, one of the most important is that warehouse managers and personnel can use AR daily without having an expensive changeover cost when they start using it.

This technology provides instant feedback with data from multiple locations, so managers know exactly if their supply chain is performing as expected or if any issues need to be addressed. The wireless nature of these devices means AR is perfectly suited for work in and around warehouses.

Digital Transformations

Warehouse management is going digital everywhere. E-commerce and omnichannel retailing have become much more popular, leading businesses to invest more in warehouse management software and automation. The ability to deliver products from their warehouse on time with less employee involvement is what many businesses have been aiming for.

Companies want their warehouses to be fast and flexible, moving with the needs of changing business conditions. Warehouses are now being designed with reconfigurable storage systems, which can be changed based on current storage needs without downtime or significant disruption.

For this level of automation and digitization to happen, these enterprises need a great deal of up-to-date data about their inventory and how quickly they can process orders. Fortunately, warehouse management solutions like Microsoft’s D365 provide real-time updates on inventory levels and shipping rates. These are just a few reasons we’re seeing more businesses finally replace their aging legacy systems – and when all is said and done, they’re much better off for it.

What comes next

Staying up to date on changes in technology can be a full-time job. One of the best ways to understand what comes next is by working with a partner that understands your business.

As your company grows and your warehousing needs change, your partner can ensure you’re using the perfect solution.

Whether you’re looking for a whole new warehouse management solution or just adding on newer functionality, your partner should be there to set you up for greater success.

Be prepared for what comes next, contact us today to find out how we can help.

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.

How Embracing IoT Enables Business Growth

How Embracing IoT Enables Business Growth

How Embracing IoT Enables Business Growth 700 500 Xcelpros Team

At a Glance

  • $5.5 – $12.6 trillion: The estimated dollar impact on the world economy from the Industrial Internet of Things by 2030
  • 26%: The impact of IoT in manufacturing, hospitals, and other areas
  • 10 – 14%: The impact of IoT in human health-related companies
  • 55%, down from 61% in 2020: The economic value potential of the developed world

Source: McKinsey Digital

IoT in Production

The Internet of Things is continuing to have a growing impact on all industries, including the production of medicines and other pharmaceuticals.

“The IoT enables devices to connect and exchange data. The IoT connects assets to processes, systems, and people in manufacturing. This enables better integration of plant processes, achieving higher productivity levels and taking manufacturing to the next level of transformation, Industry 4.0,” a blog post from IBM states.

“IoT for manufacturing can harness the data from machines and equipment to transform the processes and systems of the modern factory environment. By denying or ignoring the transformation that the IoT (internet of things) will inevitably bring, manufacturers risk falling behind competitors and losing clients that value speed and innovation,”

Today, the world is in the midst of the fourth Industrial Revolution following 1783’s use of water power and steam, 1870’s introduction of electricity and the 1960’s switch from analog to digital technology.

Industry 4.0 embraces cognitive manufacturing using a combination of connected sensors, big data, predictive analysis and robotics. With the industrial internet of things (IIoT) on the rise, human workers are moving away from repetitive, mundane tasks. Instead of people dipping thermometers into vats or manually counting products, sensors can monitor temperatures in real time. Barcode labels attached to everything from individual packages to pallets let handheld devices identify the contents and where they belong.

This information flows from sensors to device controllers for each machine. Each controller sends information into a plant’s internal computer network. From there, it’s passed into individual workstations that can be anywhere in the world.

Digital Controllers for IoT

Walk into any production plant anywhere in the world and regardless of what the plant produces, changes are high you’ll see controllers made by Siemens.

“Siemens is a pioneer in framework and energy arrangements, just as computerization and programming for the Industrial Control And Factory Automation Market. Being one of the world’s greatest makers of energy-effective, asset sparing advancements, this organization gives research center diagnostics, clinical imaging hardware, and clinical IT solutions,” Verified Market Research states.

VMR lists Siemens of Germany at the top of its seven industrial control and factory automation companies. The others are ABB of Sweden, Emerson Process Management of the U.S., Rockwell Automation of the U.S., Schneider Electric headquartered in France, Honeywell of the U.S. and Mitsubishi Electric of Japan.

Siemens markets the SIMATIC IOT ® gateways, which make it easy to, “implement forward-looking production concepts in your existing plant with SIMATIC IOT gateways – they’re open, versatile, and retrofittable,” the company states.

One of Siemen’s products is a controller aimed at cloud computing: the SIMATIC Cloud Connect 7. These types of controllers help companies with far-flung operations in multiple countries share information in real-time, letting workers know what’s going on in a machine a continent away. Industrial manufacturers sending this information through the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform can easily access data from—or send commands to—devices using these controllers.

Siemens’ industrial robots “help manufacturers grow and develop new applications that were once unfeasible with previous robotics technology.” Combining different Siemens controllers and robots is one way small and medium businesses can boost their production and efficiency. By automating formerly repetitive steps, companies can run production lines longer with reduced errors. Fewer human interaction is required, allowing production runs without anyone in the building.

Information from these controllers produces what’s commonly referred to as “big data.” Terabytes of data can be routed through machine controllers into your network from individual sensors. Unfortunately, this information is almost worthless if you can’t make it work for you.

Figure: 1IoT Enterprise Spending Forecast

IoT Enterprise Spending Forecast

IoT Data

When it comes to IoT data, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is the next logical step in the flow of information. ERPs are designed to organize the data sent through your controllers and present it in useable forms such as graphical dashboards and reports.

“ERP systems bridge information gaps across different departments within a business allowing managers to see a more holistic view of a company’s finances and critical issues. With easy access to all company processes and data, managers can make quick and informed decisions to improve the productivity of the business,” according to Omniaccounts.

One important ERP feature is resource allocation. Modern sensors and controllers might be able to tell you what each machine is doing, but not which sequence of machines is most efficient. That’s where your ERP comes in.

Omniaccounts states “When ERP systems are implemented correctly across a business, they transform the financial, operational, and human resource aspects of an organization. Companies at the forefront of innovation are implementing ERP software to improve the way data is shared across an organization, reduce internal costs, increase efficiency, and improve processes across their organizations. An ERP system fits in with any industry, be it retail, corporate, industrial, and even small businesses, assisting with the day-to-day operations of the company and the ever-changing industry needs.”

Effective ERP

Picking the right ERP for your business can make a big difference in functionality. Among the many benefits of modern ERP for manufacturing is improving supply chain efficiency by helping track raw materials from the supplier to your warehouse. Once the essential items arrive, an ERP designed with labeling makes it easy to efficiently store, trace and track products throughout production and on to customers.

The right ERP also boosts production by enabling more efficient resource allocation.

Imagine your factory is running a dozen different jobs and one of the orders is smaller than normal. When that job completes, the ERP can indicate that a machine is available. The remaining time can then be used for preventive maintenance, to run a low-volume order for one customer, or increase production for another.

On top of resource allocation, especially with IoT data, an ERP with predictive analysis helps companies.

  • It lets you know when a part is showing wear so you can replace it before having to shut down a production line
  • It helps predict where new markets will emerge through evaluating business intelligence
  • Supply chain information, coupled with business intelligence, can predict where the next Suez Canal-type fiasco might occur, giving you the option to route your shipments through other ports

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ERPs and Pharmaceutical

Today’s modern ERPs are a great way to boost the business of any small, medium or large business. ERP Research lists six ERP software makers whose products are especially good for pharmaceutical companies.

“Many pharmaceutical companies are exploring Microsoft Dynamics as their pharmaceutical ERP. The solution provides great flexibility plus a large partner ecosystem that has developed many pharmaceutical industry add-ons,” ERP Research states.

An important advantage of using Microsoft Dynamics 365 products is the company’s focus on security. Using Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform provides an additional layer of data security as propriety information travels from one company site to another.

Labeling solutions that can print either barcodes or QR codes lets pharmaceutical companies embed any and every piece of required information in each label. A scan of an individual product’s label can then provide all data required in order to meet the regulations of each country or state that item moves through after leaving the factory. Even safety data sheet (SDS) information and instructions can be embedded in a label, quickly and easily.

Final Thoughts

IoT in the pharmaceutical industry is sure to be a defining factor as more use cases develop. Any company wanting to take advantage of modern technology and move to Industry 4.0 need to look at investing in at least three types of products:

  1. 1.IoT sensors to gather information at the machine level
  2. 2.Controllers to guide that data into your network
  3. 3.A modern, efficient and scalable Enterprise Resource Planning tool like Microsoft Dynamics 365 to turn that data into information for helping your company run more efficiently and profitably.

This combination gives your company an edge over competitors locked into older products and programs. Is your business IoT ready?

How Azure helps SMBs grow

How Azure helps SMBs grow their businesses

How Azure helps SMBs grow their businesses 700 500 Xcelpros Team

Azure is

Small and medium businesses and enterprises (SMBs/ SMEs) looking to move into a secure and versatile cloud computing environment need to take a closer look at Microsoft’s Azure platform. About to enter its 12th year, Azure has provided a wealth of open-source programs, renowned security, cloud computing services, and scalability to help small and medium businesses grow.

Microsoft’s Azure is:

  • Hybrid cloud computing, letting companies create virtual machines on Linux or Windows platforms.
  • Application development including E-commerce and mobile products.
  • AI (artificial intelligence) aimed at helping mine knowledge from your existing data.
  • Cloud migration and modernization, moving information from an on-premise server farm to a distributed cloud.
  • Data and analytics, including blockchain.
  • The Internet of Things, allowing manufacturers to attach sensors to machine components and be alerted before critical failures strike.
  • Security, including disaster recovery.
  • Industry solutions covering financial services, government, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, energy, media, entertainment and space.

Azure features are helpful in all of these situations and more. Companies can create custom applications for their unique needs using open-source programs and run them through Azure. Additionally, Azure can seamlessly share data with other Microsoft products like Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite.

Azure and IoT: A Perfect Match for Manufacturing

IoT in manufacturing refers to a set of intelligent machines and equipment communicating in a network. Hundreds of connected sensors can monitor wear on equipment, relate temperature and pressure settings, and monitor flow rates.

Each of these sensors feed information into a computer network. The data then needs to pass from its source where it can be analyzed and turned into actionable intelligence.

This is a huge benefit if your company has a manufacturing plant in another country. Every team is aware of what the other is doing, and if there are any issues in the manufacturing process.

Connecting other Microsoft programs, like Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management on top of Azure ensures your small to medium enterprise (SME) has accurate control of its inventory. With the global supply chain issues ongoing, knowing what’s where and how to get your products to your customers has become critical.

Azure is Open Source

Azure’s being open source means your developers can create programs that help your business and other companies. As a bonus incentive, as of Sept. 28, 2021, your company can earn Azure credits for open-source projects for one year.

Among the programs already taking advantage of Microsoft’s incentive are:

Figure: 1 Advantages of Microsoft’s incentives

Advantages of Microsoft's incentives

  • FreeBSD, a Unix operating system for servers, desktops and embedded platforms. The credits help developers work on custom kernels.
  • Alma Linux is an enterprise distribution system.
  • Snakemate, a workflow management system for creating scalable data analyses. The workflows can be scaled to server, cluster grid and cloud environments.
  • Promitor discovers Azure Metrics for easy use anywhere.

Often, taking advantage of open source technologies like these helps SMBs getting just started with Azure identify a number of new opportunities for growth. Quoting a 2020 McKinsey and Co. report, Microsoft states, “organizations that adopt open source technologies score 30 percent higher on innovation and 20 percent higher on developer satisfaction.”

One of the oldest open source programs around is Linux. Linux virtual machine(VM) images make up 60 percent of Azure Marketplace VM images. Pairing Linux with Microsoft’s Azure lets developers and businesses:

  • Spend less time on administrative tasks
  • Streamline the creation of fully governed environment using Azure blueprints
  • Protect your intellectual property (IP) and digital assets with the Azure IP Advantage program.

Among the seven products listed on the Azure Linux home’s website is one that lets you provision Windows and Linux virtual machines in seconds, one letting you migrate your current on-premise virtual machines to Azure, and another letting you gain deeper insights into your data.

Azure is IoT

Azure is designed for the Internet of Things (IoT). Azure IoT Central is a secure, industry-focused, enterprise-grade, and scalable app platform. As your business grows, your investment can scale with it.

Since IoT is able to create stacks of big data in real-time, Azure has been designed to provide quick connectivity between IoT devices and the cloud. This lets you track what’s happening and modify commands when unexpected situations occur, like an unexpected breakdown on the production line.

Azure’s IoT-based design provides a bridge between business applications, such as the Dynamics 365 ERP suite and your IoT data. Complex custom intermediate software is not required to interpret what your IoT sensors are telling so it can communicate with your ERP. Azure handles it for you.

The IoT Plug and Play app helps simplify device interactions, enabling easy device-to-cloud integration. This cuts development time, cost and complexity. It lets you build devices that integrate easily with Azure IoT cloud solutions without writing embedded code.

Azure is About Making Data Useful

One of the programs built for the Azure cloud services program is Azure Databricks. Azure Databricks offers three environments for generating data intensive applications:

  1. 1.Databricks SQL for analysts wanting to run SQL (structured query language) queries, letting them explore your data from different perspectives.
  2. 2.Databricks Data Science & Engineering provides collaboration between data engineers, data scientists, and machine learning engineers. Ideal for big data pipelines, Azure Databricks, can turn information from multiple sources into insights your SMB can turn into profits.
  3. 3.Databricks Machine Learning is an end-to-end machine learning environment for experiment tracking, model training, feature development and management plus feature and model serving.

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Azure is Innovation

Being open source, Azure has access to a host of shared programs.

CsharpCorner lists nine ways to run an application in Azure. They include virtual machines, Azure Kubernetes service, Azure Container Instances service, Azure Batch, Azure App Services Web Apps or Mobile Apps, Azure Function Apps and Logic Apps.

With more than 180,000 open source projects and more than 1,400 unique licenses, the odds of finding pre-built, easily customizable open source software are in your favor.

For example, the Azure Marketplace is promoting featured apps that support innovation and software needs in several industries:

  • Digital Factory: Digitize manufacturing processes such as performance tracking, production scheduling and log-keeping quickly and cost-effectively
  • Exact Globe: Designed for financial services, it integrates financial and operational processes creating best-in-class financial administration
  • Personalization Platform: Made for online retailers, it lets your customers have a personalized, relevant and intuitive experience

The Bottom Line

Azure provides security and flexibility with unparalleled potential growth in terms of computing. This in turn will help your company grow, especially if it wants to digitize production. Designed with the IoT in mind, Azure has features that let it seamlessly move information from machine sensors to ERPs. Any SMB considering moving beyond on-premises computing to the cloud should take a long, hard look at Microsoft Azure, and the growing number of open-source solutions. What’s your next move?

Best Practices in Quality Management and Control

Quality Management and Control – Best Practices

Quality Management and Control – Best Practices 700 500 Xcelpros Team

Introduction to Quality Management and Control

Reducing the amount of defective products saves manufacturers money. Cutting raw materials waste, using labor and equipment more efficiently, and reducing returns from unhappy customers are all ways to save money when product defects are reduced. Boosting quality control in manufacturing can also lead to an enhanced customer experience, supercharging your brand while lowering the need for extra raw materials to replace anything wasted.

Three ways any industry can improve quality control include:

  1. 1. Reducing human mistakes by automating repetitive actions. Automation also improves accuracy and increases visibility. Combined with internet of things (IoT) sensors, automation creates data that can be analyzed for hidden incremental improvements.
  2. 2. Inspecting, testing, and comparing products to defined standards. Products that meet those standards are shipped. Those that don’t are recycled. Adding computerized sensors in the inspection and quality control phase also provides an opportunity for insights into ways to create and build quality control standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  3. 3. Tracking inventory from the material supplier through warehouses and production to the end customer’s door. Accurate labeling lets manufacturers trace everything from essential ingredients to sub-assemblies and completed products. Using barcodes combined with automated and hand-held scanners provides a third data entry point into your firm’s network, ensuring most of what goes in comes out as salable products.

Using these three quality control methods in production can help your company create an efficient production cycle that reduces machine downtime, defects, and waste rework. The result is better merchandise and less waste, benefiting customers and manufacturers alike.

Quality Control Starts with Quality Planning

For many, focusing on quality control, or QC, means creating an efficient, consistent manufacturing process that gives the same results every time the process is repeated. The only way to ensure this consistency is with a well-formulated quality plan.

As a manufacturer or company who uses contract manufacturers, you likely focus on two critical elements: quality and cost. The best way to deliver the highest quality at the lowest cost is to start with quality planning. The American Society for Quality defines quality plans as “a document or set of documents that describe the standards, quality practices, resources and processes pertinent to a specific product, service or project.”

A quality plan for manufacturing ensures:

  • Conformance to your customer’s requirements, which may include meeting government standards.
  • Verification of your own standards while confirming your internal procedures work as expected.
  • Tracking the motions of every product, from the moment raw materials or sub-assemblies enter your premises, to their delivery at your customer’s door.
  • Consistent results via ensuring the quality methods in production work as designed and as expected.
  • Deficiencies in worker training are identified, allowing them to be corrected.
  • Insights into ways to further enhance your quality control standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The major components of a quality plan which must be stated and defined:

  • Responsibility for distribution, in terms of which manager or department confirms each step in the process so the end result aligns with the company’s goals.
  • Process steps and individual procedures for each step in the overall production process.
  • Testing requirements and the amount of government oversight vary by industry. For example, medicines or chemicals have significantly more regulations to comply with than furniture, for example.
  • Methods for tracking changes and modifications, regardless of the cause.
  • Quality process measurement in terms of value provided by the quality plan.

The final and most essential components of a quality plan are standards: What practices and procedures must be followed in your quality plan so that manufacturing meets requirements, customer’s needs, and government compliance requirements?

The Value of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

A key part of quality control in manufacturing is having standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are easily replicated. Each step in each procedure making up the entire production process is checked, re-checked, and confirmed by those designated to follow that specific SOP. The final test is completed by having a new hire follow said procedure and reviewing their results. When the results from a new hire are able to meet set production quality control standards, the SOP can be considered a success. When the results do not meet set production quality control standards, the fault lies with the SOP document, not the worker.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institute of Health, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) create a structured approach to work and guarantee consistent execution of tasks by all individuals involved. Well-crafted SOPs play a critical role in maintaining Good Clinical Practice (GCP), preventing errors, reducing waste, and avoiding unnecessary rework. On the other hand, poorly articulated SOPs can lead to misinformation and confusion.

These documents must be user-friendly and written in a way that is easy to follow and leaves little room for errors. Preventing errors via SOPs improves quality, reduces waste, and when written with input from people involved in the actual manufacturing process, boosts efficiency.

The Role of Quality Assurance

In manufacturing, quality assurance (QA) encompasses the practices that manufacturers employ within a quality management system to uphold expected levels of consistent quality for the items they create.

When paired with quality control, quality assurance works to ensure customers receive products that meet specific standards, in terms of defects and tolerances. QA is a proactive method that works via employee training, defining processes in written SOPs, and selecting the right tools for each job. QC looks at the results from QA and determines if a product passes or fails.

Effective quality control and quality assurance plans, combined with quality auditors ensuring standards are met, results in cost savings, boosted efficiency, and boosted customer satisfaction.

Figure 1: The Role of Quality Assurance

The Role of Quality Assurance is to boost customer satisfaction and efficiency and provide cost savings.

The Role of Quality Assurance

  • Cost savings in terms reduced waste
  • Using equipment more effectively boosts efficiency

Quality management standards vary by the industry, though one of the most common is ISO 9000. A set of international quality standards, ISO 9000 covers many different industries and approaches.

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Quality Management Systems

A Quality Management System (QMS) is a structured framework that captures the essence of how things get done right. It’s all about documenting processes, procedures, and responsibilities, with the ultimate goal of achieving quality policies and objectives. By coordinating and directing an organization’s activities, the QMS plays a vital role in meeting customer needs, fulfilling regulatory requirements, and always striving to be better, faster, and more efficient.

An effective QMS helps manufacturing companies:

  • Define production processes
  • Reduce waste
  • Prevent mistakes
  • Lower costs
  • Engage staff
  • Set an organization-wide direction
  • Communicate a readiness to customers that it wants to produce consistent results

In today’s digital world, QMS doesn’t stand alone in a silo: it’s part of a company’s overarching software linking QA and QC to inventory, sales and other departments. One example of a versatile QMS is called Integrated Chemical Management (iCM), which integrates fully with Microsoft’s flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Supply Chain Management, and Business Central. When integrated with Dynamics 365, iCM  provides a scalable, easy to use overarching quality management tool that helps with on time delivery (OTD) for products, under budget.

When merged with internet of things (IoT) sensors on production machines, Integrated Chemical Management (iCM) and Dynamics 365 manage and massage data. Among the results are ways to make incremental quality improvements that boost long-term overall quality scores, resulting in more sales and customer satisfaction.

Summary – Quality Management

For any company, producing higher-quality products takes forethought, patience, and serious effort. This means having a documented quality management plans that include step-by-step directions for every procedure and every part of the production process.

When it comes to manufacturing, an effective quality management plan looks at quality assurance and quality control, examining and testing various stages of the production process to ensure everything meets your demanding standards, boost efficiency, and reduce wasteful practices.

Helping measure these results is a modern quality management system like Integrated Quality Management (iQM) from XcelPros, which integrates fully with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management. When used as part of an overall ERP software plan, iQM helps companies find ways to improve quality while reducing costs. This leads to an overall effect is a boost in profitability, helping power additional growth and granting ROI.

Taking the time to plan how to function in these uncertain times is essential. Using software tools such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Supply Chain Management, or Business Central will help companies continue to operate successfully in rapidly changing conditions.

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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.

using AI ml-in the pharmaceutical industry key considerations banner

Using AI & ML in the Pharmaceutical Industry – Key Considerations

Using AI & ML in the Pharmaceutical Industry – Key Considerations 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Artificial intelligence is one of those science-fiction-sounding phrases, but what does it mean to people in the pharmaceutical industry? What is the difference between AI and its cousin, ML, which means machine learning? How can the two types of computer software make pharmaceutical companies more efficient and profitable?

The answers are in what they do and how AI and ML work together.

AI can be defined as using computer algorithms—math—to perform tasks requiring human intelligence. IBM defines AI as “leveraging computers and machines to mimic problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.”

“It is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable,” John McCarthy was quoted as saying in a 2004 paper.

So if AI acts like somewhat like a human mind to solve problems, how is machine learning different?

“Machine learning is the study of computer algorithms that can improve automatically through experience and by the use of data. It is seen as a part of artificial intelligence,” Wikipedia states.

In essence, the two types of programs work together to analyze information.

For example, say the first 100 production runs of product XYZ1000 have a 70 percent success rate in terms of meeting basic quality standards. Analysis shows the difference between success and failure is one step. Every run where the temperature was kept within a 0.2-degree range succeeded. Every run where the temperature exceeded 0.5 degrees failed. Logic says that keeping the temperature within that narrow range boosts success which, in turn, improves productivity.

Machine learning tells operators, “keep the temperature within 0.2 degrees for this one step.” Artificial intelligence builds on machine learning. It says, “by keeping everything else the same and keeping the temperature in this single step within 0.2 degrees,” the company will see:

  • More efficient use of raw materials
  • Less waste
  • Greater profits
  • A host of other benefits

So how does a pharmaceutical manufacturing company benefit by using AI and ML? Let’s look at the numbers.

By the Numbers

  • $100 billion: The amount of money AI and ML can generate in the US health care industry alone.
  • $161 million – $2 billion: The estimated cost of getting a new drug through clinical trials and obtaining FDA approval.
  • 72 percent: The percentage of healthcare companies believing that AI will be crucial to how they do business in the future.
  • 62 percent: The percentage of healthcare companies considering investing in AI soon.
  • 61 percent: The percentage of companies believing that AI will help them identify opportunities they will otherwise miss.
  • 13.8 percent: A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates the number of drugs successfully passing clinical trials.
  • 11 percent: The percentage of businesses who have not considered investing in AI.

Sources: Digital Authority Partners and PharmaNews Intel.

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How AI Helps the Pharmaceutical Industry

Add in a third element—large data sets created by Internet of Things (IoT) sensors wired into a company’s network—and the result is a technology-savvy, company that can see ways to improve efficiency. AI runs computations that estimate probabilities based on known numbers.

Going back to our earlier example, 30 percent of the production runs failed quality standards. That’s the new baseline. Having computers that can finely tune machines reduces tolerances.

Another way pharmaceutical companies are using AI is to speed up drug discovery. It sifts through large datasets from clinical studies and other sources to detect hidden patterns, performing tasks in seconds that once took months. Learning every time they perform a task, AIs run through millions of tasks.

“Drug discovery is being transformed through the use of AI, which is reducing the time it takes to mine the vast amounts of scientific data to enable a better understanding of disease mechanisms and identify new potential drug candidates,” says Karen Taylor, director of the Centre for Health Solutions at accounting and consultancy group Deloitte. “Traditional drug discovery has been very fragmentary, very hit and miss,” she adds in The Guardian article.

The rapid creation of effective Covid-19 vaccines is a direct result of AI and ML in the pharmaceutical industry, Taylor states.

Figure: 1 Funding in Artificial Intelligence in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Funding in Artificial Intelligence in the Pharmaceutical Industry

How valuable is AI to big pharma? Britain’s two largest drug makers—AstraZeneca and GSK—recently funded the Cambridge Center for AI in Medicine at the prestigious university. GSK already opened a £10 million (roughly $13.5 million) in central London. This lab is near Google’s DeepMind AI lab.

DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis recently unveiled Isomorphic Labs, which intends to use an AI-first approach to discovering new drugs. DeepMind’s AlphaFold2 AI system solved the 50-year-old challenge of protein folding. AlphaFold is capable of predicting the 3D structure of protein directly from its amino acid sequence to atomic-level accuracy, Hassabis said in a recent Isomorphic blog post.

“One of the most important applications of AI that I can think of is in the field of biological and medical research, and it is an area I have been passionate about addressing for many years,” he said.

Hassabis considers biology an extremely complex and dynamic information processing system, making it a perfect match for AI.

“But just as mathematics turned out to be the right description language for physics, biology may turn out to be the perfect type of regime for the application of AI,” he said.

The Guardian article also looks at the money: Using older methods, nine of every 10 drugs in development will fail. The average drug development time is 10-12 years. With AI, the success rate is expected to at least double and possibly boost success from 1:10 to as high as 1:2.

How Can SMBs Benefit from AI?

While having $13 million in labs devoted to research is a great idea, many companies don’t have that large of an R&D budget. At least one well-known company has enterprise resource planning modules that integrate AI: Microsoft.

Figure: 2 AI Powered Insights by Microsoft

AI Powered Insights by Microsoft

AI Powered Insights by Microsoft

One example is Microsoft Dynamics 365’s Customer Insights is one of several modules that has AI built in. When pharmaceutical companies combine Dynamics’ Business Intelligence module with its Integrated Chemical Management (iCM), the two work together to mine your pharmaceutical data.

iCM is specifically designed to handle tasks like System of Record (SOR) for chemical and regulatory data plus compliance with cGMP regulations.

Add in Dynamics’ Supply Chain Management module and pharmaceutical manufacturers and suppliers can know to the second how much of any given product they have. Using AI and other information mined from a thorough inventory review, companies can accurately predict how much of any given precursor chemical they need to meet forecast demands. With this information, companies can place orders when costs are low or keep just enough on hand.

The Bottom Line

Pharmaceutical companies already create mountains of data. Instead of losing valuable nuggets of information such as trends and insights, artificial intelligence can sort through it. AI can:

  • Perform comparatively mundane tasks extremely fast
  • Provide your company with ways to create new products at lower costs
  • Produce new drugs much faster than before
  • Reduce the number of new drug failures

Using Microsoft Dynamics 365 modules equipped with the power of AI will ultimately help boost your bottom line.

How to Choose the Right ERP Platform

How to Choose the Right ERP System for your Business Growth

How to Choose the Right ERP System for your Business Growth 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Imagine your company’s software vendor has just announced it’s no longer supporting a program your staff uses, one that over the years has helped you grow your business. Processes continue to get more complicated with data continuing to expand at astronomical rates leaving older systems behind. Your company is left with no choice: It’s time to pick a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for your organization.

There are two major questions that need to be answered: Which solution best suits your company right now? Is there a different solution that will help your pharmaceutical or chemical company grow from a small or medium business (SMB) to a level able to challenge the industry giants?

Choosing the Right ERP System

Before your company can evaluate products on the market, you need to understand what will work best for you. ERP News suggests that if you do nothing else, it’s important to understand the needs of your business.

Before starting the ERP selection process, it is a good idea to analyze the business processes correctly and reveal the areas that you find incomplete or that need to be improved. Source: ERP News

Figue: 1 ERP selection process

ERP selection process

There are 10 critical steps to selecting the right ERP software package:

1.Ensuring it fits your company’s business needs. It’s important to understand what your organization’s needs are now and in the future; short, medium, and long term.

2.Planning an effective budget. You want to get the most effective business ERP system for your organization. What’s the total cost of ownership? What kind of return on investment (ROI) can you expect? Which is most likely to help your company profit and grow?

3.Verifying flexibility and scalability. Just because a package is a top-rated ERP solution today doesn’t mean it can keep up as your needs grow or as market conditions change.

4.Ensuring it can adapt to new technologies. Can your solution of choice support internet of things (IoT) data? Is it compatible with cloud computing? Does it allow work from any location? Is it usable with tablets, laptops and even mobile phones?

5.Is it compatible with your existing business software? Can the new system communicate with your legacy software and devices? Will your users access old data alongside new orders and processes easily?

6.What do similar-sized competitors use? Is there a standard ERP used in your industry? What do your clients, suppliers and business partners use? What do they like and what would they change if given a chance to start from scratch?

7.Research your implementation partner. How much experience do they have in your industry? How flexible is the software and how capable is your partner? Can your implementation partner customize the software to meet your specific, demanding needs?

8.Will it grow with your business? Can the enterprise resource planning application expand, not only in terms of users but into other areas you don’t need today, but might in the future?

9.Does this project have support from upper management? If not, going through all of the other steps is an exercise in futility. Effective research will make it impossible for top management to say no.

10.Does it have a familiar look and feel? Don’t underestimate the effect changing ERP systems will have on your worker. If you don’t have user support, making it work will be tough. One way to achieve that goal is by using software similar to other programs they already use.

One last question to continuously ask along the way might be “What do we have that works well right now? What do we need to function better?”

Top ERP Systems in the US

All of the software giants have ERP systems. Depending on who you read, different companies will be on top. The dominant players are well-known software companies: Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce and others. In no particular order, the most frequently mentioned top ERP systems are:

  • Epicor ERP
  • IFS
  • Infor
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365
  • Oracle JD Edwards
  • Oracle NetSuite
  • Sage X3
  • Salesforce CRM
  • SAP Business One
  • Syspro
  • Workday Financial Management

Researching offerings from each one of these major companies will take time and manpower. At this point, you’ve moved on to the next stage: evaluation.

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Evaluating ERP Software

According to SelectHub, choosing the right ERP system includes evaluating criteria based on your company’s needs. Typically, evaluation criteria includes:

  • Customer Relationship Management / Account Management
  • Accounts Payable Reporting
  • Bank Reconciliation
  • Benefits Administration
  • Capacity Requirements Planning
  • Material Requirement Planning
  • Bill/Build of Materials
  • Logistics Management
  • Inventory Management
  • Module Integration
  • Installation Type
  • Network Flexibility
  • Employee Training

Companies in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries should add:

  • U.S. Regulatory Compliance
  • International Regulatory Compliance

Not included in this list is one other critical criteria that can help determine if your company would be vulnerable to attacks: data security.

Where to Start

A great place to start your search for a flexible, versatile, secure and ultimately valuable ERP software package solution is by connecting with an experienced consulting service with a thorough understanding of highly-regulated industries. This should include upgrades and migration, which are commonly ignored.

There are many partners that can suggest a modern upgrade path including an in-depth migration assessment that is risk-free and cost-effective. Whoever you team with, you’ll want to make certain they have extensive experience in your industry with respect to project planning, risk management and strategy.

Our Recommendation: Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP solutions are easily expandable, extremely secure, and backed by Microsoft’s Azure platform. Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) modules include Finance, Supply Chain Management, Business Central and other related—and integrated—products. D365 can be customized and enhanced with other functionality, including products specifically designed for chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Integrated Chemical Management is a perfect example as one of Microsoft’s preferred solutions for these industries.

As a Microsoft product, Dynamics 365 has an advantage over every other competing product: a familiar look and feel. Office 365 and its many predecessors are used by millions of people worldwide. This familiarity helps your staff learn new software without having to learn an entirely new method of working.

Final Thoughts

For every business, Selecting the right ERP system for every business starts with an honest evaluation of your company and its needs. Determining where you are and where you want to go are the first steps towards ensuring your investment ultimately turns a profit and helps your organization grow.

It’s a big job, selecting the right partner along with the right software package. Thorough research and proper planning will be key to a smooth transition, but the result will be a much better implementation of a much better product. Are you ready to get started?

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.

Get a consultation to learn how to optimize your processes and systems to support bioeconomy.

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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.