Implementing Effective Design and Engineering Solutions Within the Life Sciences Industry: Engineering Expert Discusses the Right Approach

The UK Life Sciences sector had an annual turnover of £89 billion in 2020, playing a significant role within a range of healthcare missions as one of the most valuable sectors for UK economy.

Being vital in both the UK and wider global healthcare markets in helping to tackle long-term health challenges, it has been at the forefront of research and development in human medicines, advances in biotechnology, manufacturing of medical technologies and more, delivering immense benefits to the world.

But are the right design and engineering services available to generate viable solutions and facilitate advancements within the industry?

Making the vision a reality

Having recently been appointed as the managing director of adi Life Sciences, a newly formed division of multidisciplinary engineering company adi Group, Darren Lewis is keen to make an impact on the life sciences sector after a highly successful entry to the market.

He says: “Life sciences is an industry that requires particular attention from an engineering, design, and compliance perspective.

“Our work allows organisations within the sector to make long-term healthcare changes. We are helping treat diseases like diabetes and heart disease, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and the truly staggering impactful diseases like cancer.

“This is why it’s vital to bring the right processes and ideas to the industry. Many ideas with incredible potential fail because they are being implemented in the wrong way. But having the right partner to suitably develop that idea makes all the difference.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in the industry are focussed around bringing manufacturing back to the UK – reversing the historical trend of outsourcing – and investing heavily in on‐demand manufacturing capacity, vaccine manufacture and micro‐formulation in hospitals.

The pandemic ultimately highlighted just how important healthcare advancements are in protecting populations, helping meet demand for lifesaving vaccines, treatment and testing equipment, meaning there’s simply no room for mistakes when it comes to design, development and engineering of relevant facilities.

Finding innovative solutions to existing issues

“In life sciences, solutions are often not fully considered beforehand, and companies don’t have the necessary level of information needed to bring a project to life. But they’ll often attempt to do the job anyway, with subpar results,” comments Darren.

“The main problem in the sector is lack of knowledge and experience – and when it comes to developing sophisticated environments such as cleanrooms, this can be incredibly detrimental.

“Some providers don’t know what the right solution is as they don’t understand the problem at hand, but they’ll impose a solution anyway, resulting in a poor solution to a problem they know nothing about.

“Knowing what questions to ask is vital, as having access to quality information quickly and accurately can make all the difference. Only then can we look at what the most viable solution is and tailor it to suit the client’s requirements. It’s about knowing how to provide the right solution, and getting it right the first time.”

Catering to different requirements

Working within the life sciences sector requires a commitment to innovation and an ability to cater to new requirements in order to continue to deliver value. Amidst market volatility and changing regulatory landscapes, adopting the right strategies is crucial.

“There’s an increasing focus on digital advances in the field. This is vital if suppliers are to remain competitive, and adapting is key in an increasingly digitised world,” adds Darren.

Recent research has shown that only 20% of biopharmaceutical companies are maturing from a digital perspective.

“Leveraging new technology such as digital twins can add significant value to businesses. Imagine the benefits of seeing a complete virtual representation of an asset, and being able to see issues, find solutions and see them be implemented in real time.”

But the unique requirements of the industry go far beyond the need for digital transformation.

“Striking the right balance within time, cost and quality is vital. It is easy to see a reduction in quality in an attempt to accommodate lower costs, but that’s not the way forward,” comments Darren.

“In life sciences, compliance becomes the fourth component within the project management triangle. It’s not all about the bottom line, not when the result is not fit for purpose.

“Clients may not know exactly what they want to see – you just have to make sure that the results address their needs through and through.”

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