Pharma switches on to light as a service

Analyst insight into the UK manufacturing sector paints a picture of strong current performance ahead of critical strategic challenges. Brexit dominates the headlines, but it’s far from the only hurdle on the horizon

In its recent report, “Pressure on the Production Line — Working Capital in Global Manufacturing,” PwC dissects how production companies are managing and using working capital.

The report suggests that businesses need to invest continuously in their plant and operations to remain competitive and to secure long-term stability.

The report reveals that the sector’s rate of investment has seen a steady decline during the last 5 years and now sits at its lowest point during that period, concluding that better management of working capital is key to generating the necessary cash for investment.

Within the pharmaceutical sector, the ever-increasing cost of bringing drugs to market means that larger pharma and biotech companies are constantly searching for manufacturing strategies to drive effective development and processing operations. There is ongoing demand for increased production efficiency in the form of more automation, monitoring and tighter process control.

Historically, lighting has not been a major consideration for the sector. For many, existing lighting solutions are considered to be adequate for purpose and reinvesting in lighting is low down on the priority list.

But a new mindset is emerging. The sector’s leaders are embracing the new idea of light as a service, whereby the future performance of the lighting solution is ensured by the supplier and no capital outlay is required. These same leaders are tuned into the energy saving potential provided by today’s lighting solutions and the importance of the correct lighting quality to support employee performance and well-being.

The light as a service model enables pharma companies to look beyond what would otherwise be possible without such a financing model in place. Put simply, businesses can upgrade the way light is used within their environment and pay for it using savings generated from day one of installation.

Tailored for purpose

Certainly, the cost-savings and energy efficiencies delivered by today’s LED lighting systems are compelling. But undertaking to buy light as a service rather than a commodity moves the conversation beyond simple savings.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing covers a broad array of processes, many of which impact — or are impacted by — the operational environment. Our dealings with the sector have revealed a number of specific lighting challenges.

The pharmaceutical sector often requires very tailored, precise lighting solutions. Work conducted on site — for example in laboratories and cleanrooms — is detailed and critical. Therefore, lighting needs to be expertly selected and meticulously installed to meet the specific demands of the function conducted in a particular area.

Indeed, many pharmaceutical products are light sensitive and degrade under the wrong kind of light. Clearly, this is not a one-size-fits-all process. Successful industrial pharmaceutical lighting systems must address the variety and type of tasks performed throughout the site, as well as taking factors such as operating conditions and aesthetic design into account.

A comfortable and safe environment requires different levels of lighting intensity in different areas. But getting lighting levels right can also drive efficiencies and productivity. The pharmaceutical industry is particularly focused on lean manufacturing principles, aimed at reducing waste, streamlining processes and increasing efficiency. Lighting has a significant role to play here.

Reliably manufacturing pharmaceutical products requires comprehensive inspections. These processes — often accomplished by human visual inspection rather than automation — look to identify foreign substances or particulates, often extremely minute in size.

Inadequate light levels can result in errors in proofing and quality inspection procedures, which can lead to product contamination and recalls, resulting in wastage of both materials and production time.

Here, high-quality, robust and consistent LED lighting assists with product inspection and quality control. Consider also the effect of lighting on employee well-being. Studies have shown that working in a poorly lit environment can lead to lethargy and lack of concentration, not to mention the potential health and safety risks.

A recent study from the American Society of Interior Design found that 68% of employees complain about lighting provisions in their offices. Our own neuroscientific study, in partnership with the acclaimed Gruppe Nymphenburg, revealed that a working environment with adaptable lighting, in terms of colour and intensity, resulted in lower heart rates, calmer brain activity and less physical tension.

The expert eye

Often, the expertise will not exist in-house to assess the current lighting set-up and devise a strategy for future provision. Light as a service delivers immediate and ongoing access to lighting industry experts — individuals trained to evaluate the operating environment and who have the experience and knowledge to suggest best-fit lighting solutions.

Light can be tailored and controlled to suit specific needs, creating an environment that is geared towards safety and productivity, that is robust enough to deal with specific processing challenges and that is purpose-designed to aid specific procedures.

The future-proofing advantages of light as a service are critical. In the pharmaceutical sector, operations and manufacturing processes evolve, as does lighting technology itself. Without the model in place, significant capital would be required to upgrade or adapt lighting solutions to ensure the best fit for the environment.

Light as a service provides buyers with the necessary consultative expertise to enable them to stay ahead. Additionally, any decision maker will surely welcome the prospect of dealing with just one supplier, rather than dealing with multiple maintenance, management and sales personnel.

Such a service enables the sector to benefit from LED technology, and from future developments, without the hassle of owning and operating the lighting solution themselves. Such developments are rapid. For example, smart lighting is already serving as the conduit for collecting business intelligence.

LED lighting can act as a platform to deliver a variety of intelligent applications and improved functionality. Intelligent systems can sense when space is occupied, providing invaluable data on building usage, footfall and under-occupied space.

Although this presents businesses with a myriad of options, it also demands a change of mindset. Business leaders must recognise the emergence of lighting provision as essential to business strategy rather than a legacy service.

Time to switch

Electricity is increasingly expensive … and maintenance costs are also rising. Every day an obsolete lighting system operates, it causes unnecessary extra costs — through excessive electricity consumption, high failure rates and high maintenance charges. This is before factors such as lost productivity owing to errors in processing are considered.

Doing nothing is expensive. Undoubtedly, many businesses in the sector will be aware of the need to upgrade lighting but will be reluctant to commit funds to the lighting project. Light as a service eliminates this conundrum because little or no initial investment is required.

Of course, changing any purchasing and business model will require careful assessment, and moving to light as a service will be a change for many. However, taking the decision now can lead to immediate savings, resulting in a model that normally pays for itself from day one.

Everything associated with lighting, from design via installation and commissioning through to regular maintenance, will be handled by the expert provider, enabling pharma leaders to focus on core tasks.

Once installed, remote monitoring helps to achieve the agreed aims regarding illuminance and energy efficiency and, with expert guidance, to quickly identify opportunities to enhance usage patterns.

Adjusting lighting to individual needs and implementing new functions isn’t a one-off task performed during installation but continues throughout operations. In this way, possibilities for optimising quality, efficiency and functionality are constantly monitored.

Light as a service arrangements allow savings to be harnessed to pay for today’s technology upgrade. Such arrangements are gaining attention because they enable investment without capital commitment, moving businesses from buying technology to paying for access to it.

The combination of smart financing and technology can accelerate investment in the augmented pharmaceutical environment. Lighting is no longer an afterthought. It is recognised as a key contributor to employee well-being, site performance, lean processing and overall productivity. Leaders in the sector are recognising that now is the time to switch on.

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