Enhancing Pharmaceutical Industry Sustainability


The pharmaceutical industry is subject to continuous evolution, considering the need to ensure global sustainability in the sector. Technology has played a significant role in the advancement of the pharmaceutical industry and the need to enhance its productivity. As such, adopting the lean manufacturing process is key in ensuring that the pharmaceutical industry benefits from the development. However, there are several barriers to implementing lean manufacturing processes aimed at increasing productivity and sustainability. In contrast, with the present IT technologies, it can be possible for the pharmaceutical industry to minimize its production waste by adopting ideal lean manufacturing processes.


The study aims to evaluate the impediments to executing lean manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry and how contemporary IT technologies can minimize pharmaceutical production waste. The specific objectives of the study include the critical assessment of the different obstacles impeding the implementation of lean manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry and the evaluation of how IT technologies can reduce pharmaceutical production waste. Another objective is to determine how the lean manufacturing process impediments in the pharmaceutical industry can be eliminated to increase productivity without sabotaging the production process. The following research questions will offer a sense of direction to the topic under study. What are the specific obstacles impeding the implementation of lean manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry? How can the existing IT technologies be applied in pharmaceutical industries to reduce production waste?

Literature review

The pharmaceutical industry is significant in the contemporary world considering the extensiveness of drug use in preventive, curing, and vaccination purposes. According to Statista (2019), the global pharmaceutical market grows at a rate of 5.8%. The global pharma revenues in 2019 totaled $1.25 trillion, which indicates the large dynamics of the sector (Statista, 2019). As such, the industry needs to apply sustainable ways to increase efficiency by reducing waste. However, the industry faces numerous negative public opinions as to the most untrusted industry, considering the numerous contradictions associated with it (Taylor, 2015). For instance, the industry needs to support the wellbeing of every human need by providing drugs on the basis of need, considering the extended period that the industry has been in existence. With the lean manufacturing process, the industry can immensely enhance its efficacy by reducing waste without sabotaging its productivity.

However, the industry needs to have higher driving forces than opposing forces in its production to realize the positive impacts of lean manufacturing practices (Melton, 2005). Lean manufacturing is applying principles, tools, and practices in manufacturing physical products and aims to optimize processes, minimize waste, promote innovation, and cut costs (Landau, 2019). Several pharmaceutical companies are involved in the research, production, and marketing of drugs, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GlaxoSmithKline (Nenni, Giustiniano&Pirolo, 2014). Drug development is a continuous process and which emphasizes on quality of the drugs produced. There are several challenges in implementing lean manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry despite the benefits associated with its adoption in enhancing productivity.

Some of the barriers to implementing lean manufacturing processes include the impracticality of keeping minimum inventory due to the industry’s dynamics (Harikumar&Saleeshya, 2018). Additionally, other impediments include the uneconomical aspect of small lot sizing, difficulty in reducing set up time, and difficulty in attaining pull scheduling due to the continuous manufacturing process in the industry (Harikumar&Saleeshya, 2018). The challenges associated with integrating the lean manufacturing process in the pharmaceutical industry lie in the dynamics of the industry’s production line, which is continuous (Karam et al., 2018). The pharmaceutical industry also faces numerous pressures regarding drug development as it also adversely impacts the number of registered drugs by the regulatory authorities (Kola, 2008). The existing platforms for Research and Development aim to achieve significant scientific discoveries in the manufacturing processes, thus increasing the price of drugs (Steiner et al., 2007). Through extensive scientific research, it is possible to identify and establish technologies that can help establish efficient lean manufacturing processes in pharmaceutical industries.

Justification of the study

In the last two decades, the world has advanced in all industries, from construction to the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry has undergone significant transformations, which have thus enhanced the health care of patients and medical development. Evaluating the changes within the manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry is significant in the charting of a future plan for this industry. As such, this study will significantly aid in developing viable and sustainable lean manufacturing processes for the continued benefits of improved human health by providing an understanding of the drawbacks of adopting the process. The findings on the various impediments within the lean manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry will also aid in avoiding mistakes associated with planning. Additionally, the study will build on the existing body of evidence by analyzing the various developments and trends outlined within the literature with regard to lean manufacturing processes in various industries, inclusive of the pharmaceutical industry.

Research methodology

The study will significantly entail the analysis of the impediments of the execution of lean manufacturing processes by the pharmaceutical industry in enhancing productivity. A relatively significant portion of the data that will be used in the study will be statistical and numerical. However, the study will be descriptive; thus, the study will adopt a qualitative research technique. According to Allwood (2011), a qualitative research method entails descriptive data to explore and understand the underlying opinions regarding a particular phenomenon. The advantage of qualitative research is that it integrates the human experience, which is more accurate. In contrast, qualitative research method, there is no statistical representation, thus difficult to measure responses. The qualitative research data collection tools that this research will adopt are the document records review and interviews.

However, this research will adopt a systematic review of the existing literature regarding the different elements, technology, and transformations within the pharmaceutical industry (Uman, 2021). The study’s interest is in the pharmaceutical industries; thus, the target population would encompass industrialists, especially pharmaceutical industries and professionals in the supply chain department. While the study will especially target industrialists from the pharmaceutical industries, industrialists from other industries can provide further insights relevant to the study. As such, the study will also employ a purposive sampling technique in the collection of data. Purposeful sampling is a qualitative research technique majorly adopted to identify and select cases with significant information related to the phenomenon under study (Palinkas, 2015).

Interviews have the advantage of providing a better response rate for effective data collection (Opdenakke, 2006). Conversely, interviews can result in biases as the respondent’s answers can get affected by the interviewer’s race or physical appearance. Subsequently, there is a broad range of information from various peer-reviewed journals that are easily accessible (The Monitoring and Evaluation Toolkit, 2020). In contrast, there is the possibility of exaggeration in the information provided as the authors might have writted the literature for commercial purposes than for social research

While the study is bound to inevitably yield some numerical data, a significant part of the data required for the study is descriptive qualitative data that will apply qualitative data analysis techniques (Braun & Clarke, 2006). As such, the study will employ descriptive and thematic data analysis in analyzing the data collected towards highlighting how to overcome the impediments of implementing lean manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industries.

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Allwood, C., 2011. The distinction between qualitative and quantitative research methods is problematic. Quality & Quantity, 46(5), pp.1417-1429.

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101

Harikumar, P., &Saleeshya, P. (2018). Suitability and adaptability of Lean manufacturing in Indian pharmaceutical sector. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science And Engineering, 390, 012050. doi: 10.1088/1757-899x/390/1/012050

Karam, A. A., Liviu, M., Cristina, V., & Radu, H. (2018). The contribution of lean manufacturing tools to changeover time decrease in the pharmaceutical industry. A SMED project. Procedia Manufacturing, 22, 886-892.

Kola, I. (2008). The state of innovation in drug development. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 83(2), 227-230.

Landau, P. (2019). What Is Lean Manufacturing? - ProjectManager.com. Retrieved 17 February 2021, from https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/what-is-lean-manufacturing

Melton, T. (2005). The benefits of lean manufacturing: what lean thinking has to offer the process industries. Chemical engineering research and design, 83(6), 662-673.

Nenni, M., Giustiniano, L., &Pirolo, L. (2014). Improvement of Manufacturing Operations through a Lean Management Approach: A Case Study in the Pharmaceutical Industry. International Journal Of Engineering Business Management, 6, 24. doi: 10.5772/59027

Opdenakker, R. (2006, September). Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in qualitative research. In Forum qualitative sozialforschung/forum: Qualitative social research (Vol. 7, No. 4).

Palinkas, L. A., Horwitz, S. M., Green, C. A., Wisdom, J. P., Duan, N. and Hoagwood, K. (2015). Purposeful sampling for qualitative data collection and analysis in mixed method implementation research, Adm Policy Ment Health, 42(5): 533–544.

Statista. (2020). Topic: Global pharmaceutical industry. Retrieved 17 February 2021, from https://www.statista.com/topics/1764/global-pharmaceutical-industry/

Steiner, M., Bugen, D., Kazanchy, B., Knox, W., Prentice, M. and Goldfarb, L., 2007. The Continuing Evolution of the Pharmaceutical Industry: Career Challenges and Opportunities. [online] Onlymedics.com. Available at: [Accessed 8 February 2021].

Taylor, D. (2015). The pharmaceutical industry and the future of drug development.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Toolkit. (2020). Document Analysis |. Retrieved from https://thetoolkit.me/123-method/theory-based-evaluation/step-3-data-checking/document-analysis/

Uman, L., 2021. Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, [online] 20(1), pp.57-59. Available at: [Accessed 8 February 2021].

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