Expert Statement: Viola Meisterling, Boehringer Ingelheim

The Transition to Digitalization in the Pharmaceutical Industry

06.09.2021 - ISPE and its members are developing the roadmap to introduce Industry 4.0, also called the Smart Factory, at the pharmaceutical industry as Pharma 4.0 – an operating model that is interconnected, meaning that the digital tools allow for a fully connected network to enable direct communication between all levels in an organization.

Despite the transformational potential of digitalization, the pharma industry has historically been slower than other sectors in adopting digital tools, such as cloud storage, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, and remote communication technologies, and in ­mak­ing associated changes in workplace culture and strategic priorities. Now, however, the Covid-19 pandemic may be accel­erating the pace of change.
What are the digitalization trends in the industry? What is the business case to develop and implement digital tools and digitalization strategies? And how can organizations introduce and use them?

CHEManager asked executives and industry experts to share their views on digitalization trends in the pharmaceutical industry and challenges on the way to realize the sector’s digital transformation. We proposed to discuss the following aspects:

  • What do you think are the key digitalization trends in the pharmaceutical industry?
  • What do you consider to be the most important benefits of digitalization in the pharmaceutical industry?
  • Is your company involved in system­atic, ongoing action to digitalize operations?
  • At present, digitalization in the pharmaceutical industry is immature. In your view, what are the biggest obstacles that need to be overcome in the digitalization of the sector?
  • How would you rate the digital maturity level of your company?


“In today’s fast changing world,
everyone needs to adapt to succeed.”


Viola Meisterling: Health is what we care about. We believe that digitalization helps us to develop new and innovative therapies for patients around the world. Data science and analytics are key trends. With digitalization and automation, the amount of data is constantly increasing. By making better use of data, we can identify patterns and tendencies and transform data into insights and smart decision making. This allows us to optimize our entire value chain. As a result, digitalization helps us to create exciting new opportunities to improve human and animal health.

Digitalization affects almost every aspect of the pharmaceutical value chain. To give you one example: The lead times between the research and development of new compounds and the market launch of the pharmaceutical product will become shorter. Accordingly, manufacturing capacities need to be available faster than in the past. We have created a digital roadmap to be prepared for these developments in operations and supply chain and to actively manage these processes. One example is our project “Real Time Release Testing” (RTRT), which is part of our BI dataland initiative. With RTRT we want to use data in operations to predict product quality and release in real time with minimum risk.

In today’s fast changing world, everyone needs to adapt to succeed. We must change the way we think and act today and break out of the existing structures. If you want to be successful with your digital transformation, you need to think and act across the entire end-to-end value chain to achieve more resilience and flexibility.