"Smart tech" - Digital tools to bring the lab to customers

As alternatives to in-person training, we are using cutting-edge tools to connect virtually with our customers and offer a first-hand view from the lab floor.

Moving bio/pharma forward with digital tools and offerings

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and with it, restrictions related to travel, workplace capacity and social distancing, the Life Science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, had to reimagine how it would serve its pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical customers. 

Digitally enabled audits and customer interaction

Each year, hundreds of our Life Science customers visit our global facilities, for quality audits. To serve our customers optimally, the Emprove® Team introduced a Smart Audit project earlier this year to leverage digital audit formats like real-time Remote Audits and pre-captured Virtual Audits to complement traditional on-site visits. The goal is to provide a self-service portal enabling audit stakeholders to offer, plan and host digitally enabled audits effectively and efficiently.

As part of this, a global pilot study was launched at the beginning of the year, equipping sites with “Stay Connected” Kits, each featuring a pair of Smart Glasses as well as a tailored real-time interaction platform. The goal was to use the Smart Glasses Kits to enable Remote Audits as well as other use cases like technical support and training. As the pandemic and travel restrictions became an everyday reality, the pilot study was rapidly extended to meet the surging product demand and to help maintain continuity of the audit schedule.

Digitally-enabled collaboration & training

The M Lab™ Collaboration Centers foster collaboration with customers to explore ideas, learn innovative techniques, and work side by side with its scientists and engineers to solve critical process development and production challenges. While customers traditionally came onsite, now the walls of the M Lab™ Collaboration Centers have expanded—but not in terms of square feet. Instead, the company is harnessing the latest technology to bring the lab to the customer … virtually!

As an alternative to in-person training, we offered the industry’s first livestream lab-based course from the Burlington, Mass. facility, sharing its manufacturing and production expertise. Attendees from four continents living in China, Czech Republic, England, France, Hungary, India, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the U.S. participated in the course simultaneously—a truly global audience!

Beyond training, The M Lab™ Collaboration Center team developed a new process to provide virtual support to ensure customer projects would still move forward, such as helping customer Vuab Pharma with clinical trial efforts under a very tight timeline.

Cutting-edge tools, like the Microsoft Surface Hub and the Smart Glasses Kits, are used to connect with customers so they can get a first-hand view from the lab floor and explore solutions virtually. For instance, when Pfizer was evaluating single-use technologies for its capital projects, the experts at the M Lab™ Collaboration Center used digital tools to provide an overview and demonstration of these technologies. 

Digitally-enabled assistance & support

The Manufacturing Science and Technology (MSAT) team typically spends 50% of its time at customer sites providing hands-on scaling and implementation to ensure the correct utilization of technologies in their processes. Additionally, the MSAT team provides technical support and training to mitigate COVID-related restrictions with the use of online conference tools, Microsoft Surface Hub and the Smart Glasses Kits.

The Life Science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has responded to the challenges of working during the COVID-19 pandemic the same way it approaches the challenges its pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical customers face. The company applies strategic and innovative thinking, combined with a can-do attitude, to overcome obstacles to ensure therapies reach the people who need them the most.