Digital & Documentation Transformation Key to Pharma, Manufacturing and Energy Survival Amidst COVID-19

Pharma and manufacturing industries are facing similar wake-up calls for a future riddled with uncertainty.

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Last week, the U.S. energy sector faced a severe blow as the value of oil to be delivered in May dropped to a staggering -$37.60 per barrel—the first negative close in history. Pharma and manufacturing industries are facing similar wake-up calls for a future riddled with uncertainty. But the key to maintaining operations during and after the coronavirus crisis revolves around digital transformation and document management for processes, analytics, and an agile workforce, according to Brian Sallade, the CEO of engineering and information management firm Kinsmen Group.

"COVID-19 reveals the problems of onsite-only data location access, lack of digital access, and paper or manual processes," Sallade says. "This slows information exchange, decreases accuracy, and elevates operational risk."

While a reported $1.2 trillion in projects and contracts are in the O&G pipeline, the current crisis is changing how those involved plan for the future in reference to project timelines, reviews and suspensions, investment decisions, safety, and risk management re-structuring.(2) "Black Swan" events like COVID-19 stress the importance of energy sectors needing to implement innovative workforce strategies, IT measures, and customer service support systems—changes that call for information management processes and digital document management. While these adaptations are crucial to weathering the current chaotic business environment, such preparations may arguably be more important when transitioning back into a post-crisis world.(3)

The Center for International Environmental Law posits that oil and gas are among the hardest-hit industries of the ongoing economic crisis, with leading companies losing an average of 45% of their value since the beginning of 2020.(4) Cutting costs through digitization is nothing new, and investment in technology platforms will be necessary for energy's ability to move forward.

COVID-19 Pharma Fallout

The pharma industry is in a similar position when it comes to navigating new challenges through digitalization and technology. Document management has always been critical for the intensive preclinical, clinical, and marketing phases of drug approval—though this becomes even more so when met with drug shortages, approval pressures, and supply chain challenges.

The pandemic has introduced numerous stressors to the pharma sector, such as the more than 100 associated drug trials that are placed on hold for the time being.(6) Public-private partnerships like Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) are simultaneously working to accelerate prioritization of vaccines and drug candidates to combat the novel coronavirus.(7)

Analyses show that pharma companies may have to respond to a potentially necessary shift of generic drug manufacturing back to the U.S.(8) This requires a very nimble and accessible document management system to respond to ramping up processes, production, and regulatory approval management as well as workforce and equipment management.

Manufacturing and the Global Supply Chain

With virtually every industry reliant on the supply chain, more and more manufacturing sectors are coming to a screeching halt. According to a recent industry survey from the National Association of Manufacturers, nearly 80% of manufacturers anticipate a financial impact while more than half are expecting to face operational changes.(9)

Manufacturing, pharma, and energy sectors desperately need visibility, reliability, and responsive data management to deal with the workforce, supply chain, and overall economic impact of COVID-19. Additionally, these industries should be thinking ahead by adopting information management, document management systems, and digital technologies that enable mobile collaboration, cloud access, and COVID-19 workforce management plans in order to adapt to the unknown.

According to Sallade, the inclination of these sectors is to pull back on investment in these areas, but now is more than ever is the time to push forward and prepare for an uncertain future global landscape.

"Strategic investment that boosts operational efficiency right now ensures a company can maximize performance and outperform its peers coming out of the downturn," Sallade says. "A digital strategy that optimizes facility operations through improved information/document management and control allows companies to ramp-up and diversify production as the tide turns."