From manufacturing to utilities, transportation, defense, and beyond, automation is changing how industries do business in an IoT (Internet of Things)-connected world. The ISA (Intl. Society of Automation) defines automation as “the creation and application of technology to monitor and control the production and delivery of products and services.” In life sciences, too, the production and delivery of products and services can benefit from automation technologies. Honeywell is one example of a company applying automation to help bring vital products and services like vaccines and medical therapies to market as quickly and safely as possible. Will this become the norm in healthcare as it is becoming in so many other industries?

Acumen Research and Consulting reports the global industrial automation market is expected to reach a market value of nearly $288 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of around 7.2% during the forecast period (2019 to 2026). Advantages of industrial automation include lower operating costs, a reduction in human error, less waste, efficiencies in production and workflows, and improved production quality, and all of this adds up to the ability to bring products to market faster. Acumen identifies several leaders in the global industrial automation market like Honeywell, as well as ABB, Rockwell Automation Schneider Electric, Siemens, and many others.

Honeywell recently announced Fast Track Automation, which can significantly reduce development-to-production timescales. For instance, the company says its special blend of proprietary technology innovations for the life-sciences industry makes it possible for vital vaccines, treatments, and therapies to move from regulatory approval to full production in as little as two months, depending on process requirements. Fast Track Automation leverages the cloud, virtualization, batch software running in the controller, flexible assignment of computing power, remote asset management from a data center, and efficient, lean project implementation. It provides realtime visibility and predictive insights, alongside benefits like enhanced audit-readiness and data integrity, minimized regulatory risk, increased operational efficiencies, and reduced waste.

Often, necessity is the mother of invention, and Honeywell says Fast Track Automation is a response to COVID-19. While automation has been a clear trend in all industries, including the medical and healthcare sectors, Honeywell says the pandemic has accentuated the need to accelerate the delivery of medical solutions and devices. When process automation elements can be configured in a virtual environment and then implemented quickly once a therapy is approved, these products can help save lives sooner.

Automation is also important in reducing waste—a critical process that industries and businesses must strive toward to meet their environmental sustainability goals. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have been the spark that ignited innovations like Fast Track Automation in the life-sciences space, the need to bring vaccines, treatments, and therapies to market quickly and safely has been a concern for a long time. It’s a similar story in other industries. The global push for enterprise transformation in the realm of environmental sustainability based on the threats of climate change has become louder and more organized in the past several years, but the need to reduce waste has always been there in industries like manufacturing. From bringing vaccines to market faster to helping companies find efficiencies and cut wastage, automation is driving a new generation of innovation in industry.

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