The pharmaceutical industry has endured a turbulent few years. The coronavirus pandemic saw a sharp increase in demand for its products, but there were stringent restrictions on movement and operations.

Although we may have returned to more normal conditions, there remain major challenges with which the industry now finds itself confronted. Specifically, economic and geopolitical uncertainty have raised the prospect of renewed supply chain disruption, along with product shortages and increased cost pressures.

According to Resilinc, some European pharmaceutical firms have seen a tenfold increase in prices as a result of higher electricity prices.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that many business leaders are looking to their supply chains in search of ways to cut costs, improve operations and become more resilient. Labelling should not be overlooked here. Inaccurate labelling and undeclared allergens, for example, can necessitate product recalls – which are highly damaging not just financially but also reputationally.

Getting your labelling wrong, then, could turn out to be very costly. This is why, simply to remain competitive, pharmaceutical businesses must give serious thought to how they go about labelling their products.

The rise of the cloud as a deployment method

According to our labelling software partner, Loftware’s Top 5 Trends 2024 survey, more than half (52%) of companies currently host critical enterprise applications in the cloud. It’s not hard to see why: agility, quick deployment and low upfront cost have all made cloud-based solutions an increasingly attractive option for businesses across a wide range of industries.

The prospect of making cost savings is indeed one of the major benefits of the cloud. As well as being lower cost to implement upfront, cloud technology also reduces the need for internal IT infrastructure – allowing SMEs to benefit from the same technologies as their larger, better-resourced competitors. Given the cost pressures facing businesses today, these savings can prove crucial.

These are not, however, the only benefits of switching labelling operations to the cloud: 44% of participants in the Top 5 Trends 2024 survey cited ease of deployment as a key advantage, and 42% pointed to reduced maintenance.

Here we consider some of the primary reasons for pharmaceutical manufacturers to consider the cloud.

Reducing the risk of drug counterfeiting

Counterfeit drugs pose serious risks to the pharmaceutical industry and consumers – and, worryingly, the market in counterfeit drugs is growing. There is a clear need, therefore, for pharma firms to clearly authenticate their products and packaging.

Because labels enable manufacturers to trace items back all the way to their point of origin, they improve supply chain visibility and allow manufacturers to confirm the authenticity of products beyond any doubt – because there’s a clear digital trail to prove it.

Also, real-time monitoring of each product’s location and status significantly reduces the risk of human error in tracking and tracing. This level of automation provides firms with enhanced control over the whole supply chain, reducing the risk of counterfeiting and diversion of products.

Strengthening quality control – and protecting consumers

In the survey, business leaders were asked about what they thought was the biggest risk to tracking products effectively through the supply chain. Just under half (49%) of respondents named the inability to manage product recalls as the biggest danger in this respect.

For pharmaceutical firms, the stakes here are particularly high. Mislabelling has a direct impact on consumer safety – potentially putting their health at risk – so it’s essential that where product recalls are necessary, they can at least be managed efficiently and implemented quickly in order to minimise (or hopefully avoid) any harm that might arise.

Labelling should provide a complete audit trail, tracing products all the way from the sourcing of ingredients to manufacturing and then on to distribution. This is why labelling is instrumental in product traceability. Improving labelling, therefore, can help pharmaceutical manufacturers to strengthen quality control, reduce and mitigate risk, and prevent product recalls.

Sustainability through traceability

Sustainability is, increasingly, a key concern for businesses across all industries – and pharma is no exception. More than three-quarters (78%) of companies surveyed by Loftware said they had already put a sustainability strategy in place to help them meet their environmental targets.

It’s incumbent, therefore, on the pharmaceutical sector to make their own operations more environmentally friendly. Labelling has an important part to play here, by allowing firms to make sure that their products are sourced, shipped and delivered to the right places, reducing loss and waste due to labelling errors and ensuring raw materials are sourced responsibly.

Combine this with the advances in new technology around linerless printing systems and the opportunities for sustainable gains are even greater.

Avoiding compliance issues

Some 84% of survey respondents agreed that regulatory demands today were more complex than they had ever been before. It goes without saying that the pharmaceutical industry is – rightly – subject to some of the most demanding compliance requirements of any sector.

As a result, pharmaceutical companies must be able to implement label changes quickly across all of their templates. This helps them to reduce the risk of penalties for non-compliance – which can be substantial – as well as preventing product recalls and avoiding the costs associated with them.

The power of the cloud

It’s clear the trend towards the increased adoption of cloud-based solutions will continue in the years ahead. The affordability and convenience of the cloud make it an attractive choice, including for firms in the pharmaceutical industry.

By embracing the cloud, pharmaceutical manufacturers can significantly improve compliance, mitigate risks and ensure better visibility and traceability at every stage of the supply chain – thereby helping them to enhance their operational efficiency across the board.

Cobalt offers next-generation barcode labelling software, including Loftware Cloud. Get in touch with the Cobalt team today to find the perfect solution for your labelling needs.