Building a Resilient Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Live from the 2023 Pharma Supply Chain and Security World Summit

March 29, 2023

Supply chain issues continue to be a pervasive theme throughout the global economy with little end in sight. Yet, many industries continue to drag their feet on implementing meaningful changes to get them out of this tumultuous state. This week at the 2023 Pharma Supply Chain and Security World Summit in London, UK representatives from global pharmaceutical companies are gathered to learn about digital technologies that can help them escape this fate by building resilient supply chains.  

As part of the conference slate my colleague, Abhro Choudhury, is presenting regarding digital transformation of pharma supply chain operations. He will highlight the deficiencies in connectivity, visibility, agility, and collaboration in traditional production scheduling and how investing in digital scheduling transformation can help companies achieve supply chain resiliency.  

 Connectivity + Visibility + Agility + Collaboration = Resiliency 

Companies who challenge the status quo by embracing digitalization will make resiliency a differentiated advantage – an advantage that will help those companies navigate an uncertain horizon while bringing prosperity along the way via improved customer service and operational efficiency. AspenTech has built an ecosystem of solutions around Aspen Plant Scheduler™ to embody these characteristics. 


In order to create a production schedule, the required inputs must first be connected from independent data sources. Connecting independent data sources into a centralized data management system can be accomplished via Aspen Supply Chain ConnectTM and AspenTech Inmation™. ASCC is a centralized database application used by plant scheduler to connect with various systems. This is a single system that allows for the ingestion, processing, augmentation, and storage of diverse data, which empowers not just the scheduler but the entire enterprise to achieve connectivity. Data sources such as MES, Historians, ERP, LIMS, and more can integrate seamlessly. 


With inputs in hand, a scheduler next needs to manage labor, equipment, and material constraints before publishing a schedule. To visualize labor availability the scheduler can use the new Labor Pools Modeling functionality available in Aspen Plant Scheduler™. Workforce availability pulls into the tool from a spreadsheet or other data source.  

When predicted failures are validated by the maintenance engineer the required downtime is pulled into Aspen Plant Scheduler™ and proactively scheduled. Material availability synchronizes from ERP systems to keep assumptions up-to-date and accurate. However, in the pharmaceutical industry around two-thirds of manufacturing is outsourced via contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs)1. When Aspen Schedule Explorer™ is used to publish schedules to an easily accessible web interface, stakeholders across the enterprise and partner ecosystem can visualize material availability in real-time. This is made possible via restricted viewing capabilities.  


Once the schedule is published, the execution of scheduled activities begins. This is usually managed through a manufacturing execution system (MES) such as Aspen Production Execution Manager™. Aspen Schedule Explorer™ visualizes batch progression so stakeholders can respond with agility in the event of disruption.  

Complementary to MES, advanced process analytical technology (PAT) can be used to measure critical product and process parameters in real- or near real-time.  Aspen Process Pulse™  tracks how a batch is progressing along the expected trajectory while predicting expected completion times and product quality. These insights are then communicated to the stakeholders via Aspen Schedule Explorer™. Improving availability of real-time data is key to enabling agility in supply chain and manufacturing operations. 


Collaboration across functions is key for optimizing schedules to maximum outcome across the enterprise.  In the above examples Aspen Schedule Explorer™ is used as a digital manufacturing collaboration hub to facilitate the connection of functional groups and business processes. The inherent communication abilities of Aspen Schedule Explorer™ allow for widespread, contextualized collaboration around the activities happening in the plant. 

Beyond schedule execution, the ability to reconcile why planned schedules differ from actual execution is critical to ensure the plans being implemented are achievable. Using the Goals vs. Actuals synergy, production targets from Aspen Plant Scheduler™ are published to aspenONE® Process Explorer™ and analyzed for variances. The operations and scheduling teams collaborate to identify a root cause and the future expected behavior. 

When expected process behavior differs from master data assumptions in an Aspen Plant Scheduler™ model, the Smart Calibration synergy is used to reconcile the data. Actual historical production data from Aspen Production Record Manager™ is used to update manufacturing master data closing the gap between plan and execution. 

Supply Chain Resiliency 

With the connectivity of data inputs, widespread supply chain visibility, improved supply chain agility, and the enablement of collaboration, an organization can be certain its supply chain is designed to maximize resiliency.  

As the conference progresses this week, I look forward to sharing the vision of AspenTech with those present while furthering my understanding of how AspenTech can help tackle supply chain challenges in the pharmaceutical industry today and for many years to come. 

For more information on AspenTech's solutions for pharma, visit our pharmaceuticals industry page


  1. Two-thirds of pharmaceutical manufacturing is outsourced, ISR Reports ( 

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