As the pandemic exerts its impact on global healthcare, how can we use technology and data to support MedTech manufacturing and empower biomedical firms? In this interview, Mr Willson Deng, CEO of Arcstone, shares with us how digital technology will continue to revolutionise healthcare.
With the penetration of artificial intelligence and automation in the biomedical manufacturing industry comes the emergence of medical 4.0, the fourth medical revolution. The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the cracks in our current system and highlighted the importance of medical innovation. Now, our healthcare systems are more automated, data-driven, and environmentally sustainable.
How will such advanced technologies continue to transform healthcare? How can we utilise data to drive better operational efficiency? How do these support MedTech manufacturing? Here, we have Mr Willson Deng, CEO of Arcstone, to address these questions and share more about some of Arcstone’s works and plans for the future.
1. In 2020, the World Trade Organization reported that global trade experienced its largest-ever one-period decline, falling 14.3 per cent compared with the previous period. How has the pandemic impacted the biomedical manufacturing industry supply chain?
When the pandemic first emerged, one of the most striking impacts was that it exposed the weaknesses of the biomedical manufacturing industry supply chain across the globe. Many people were caught off guard, which resulted in the panic buying of daily necessities and groceries. On top of that, the sudden surge in demand for medical goods like surgical masks and hand sanitisers also led to global shortages, and scalpers were seen selling these items at an exorbitant price to earn profits.
Even though companies have spent decades perfecting their manufacturing supply chain, many found themselves struggling to source raw materials and resources and had trouble fulfilling customers’ demands. The supply chain was so well optimised that if there was any delay, hiccup or unknown event, the whole production chain could grind to a halt. Through this crisis, it is clear that traditional methods used in managing supply chains do not have the capability in managing sudden disruptions to one’s business operation without real-time information that can flow from the source of raw material until the finished goods. Instead, they would need to leverage advanced technologies like AI, Data, IoT and 5G in order to improve the overall end-to-end visibility across their supply chain and help absorb the impact from similar crises in the future.
According to Grand View Research, the global biotechnology market size is expected to reach USD727.1 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 7.4 per cent. With the emergence of certain key themes in the market expected to drive growth in this industry to a lucrative extent, manufacturers would need to tap on innovation in medical technology in order to keep up with this growth and demand. This would need to be done with the utmost control for quality, compliance, and regulatory conditions.
While manufacturing can be complicated, we believe that data has the power to simplify it. How Arcstone helps businesses and manufacturers in the biomedical manufacturing industry is through accelerating the digitisation of their supply chain by ensuring connectivity and transparency within operation systems. This allows manufacturers to have a real-time view of the entire supply chain from each of the supplier’s shop floors. Instead of estimating delivery and basing production from suppliers on trust, live information can flow straight from the shop floor, providing an unparalleled view of the entire production chain.
2. As a software company providing tools for Industry 4.0, could you elaborate more on your digitalisation and supply chain solutions, and how they can empower biomedical firms and pharmaceutical companies?
With Arcstone’s digitalisation and supply chain solutions, we help our customers improve their businesses by applying data to the fullest extent through easy drag-and-drop digital tools. We take the time to understand our manufacturer’s needs and put these at the heart of everything we do to develop the right digital solutions for future scalability. We also work in partnership with businesses to help overcome challenges and operate with greater agility, using the power of data to deliver innovation, opportunity, and growth. By drawing on our team’s deep expertise, it allows us to address challenges and pain points unique to the different industries we serve.
Biomedical firms and pharmaceutical companies can tap on our solutions to streamline their businesses and achieve systems integration, traceability, and quality, in their own factories and across their entire supply chain. Take for example:
- Arcstone’s arc.quire, a Data Acquisition System, will be able to pull streams of data from production floors, allowing real-time monitoring and control of operations. On top of that, Arcstone’s arc.link system can integrate existing software solutions, allowing manufacturers to centralise core data into specific databases. Manufacturers will also be able to receive custom alerts and triggering of new workflows when machines or resources are unavailable, prompting them to act quickly to address issues.
- To achieve traceability, Arcstone’s arc.ops offers improved capabilities to track materials, energy, labour, and other inputs during the production process. This way, high-quality compliance standards and raw material audits are met even under the strictest requirements. With barcodes and RFID scanning integrated into our toolsets, it allows biomedical manufacturers to track their raw material usage. Our solutions will also help to auto-schedule jobs based on available qualified personnel, machines and resources.
- Arcstone’s arc.ops helps to improve safety tracking and updates for Quality Assurance (QA) status, as well as to digitalise production processes to improve input, tracking and monitoring of data related to QA. Manufacturers are able to utilise our toolsets and solutions to gain full visibility into their inventory to help them identify low inventory levels and provide full visibility and control. To ensure that the quality is met, our digital checklists, tested against FDA 21 CFR part 11 compliance, is part of the quality control process.
- Last, but not least, Arcstone’s arc.net toolset is a multi-level blockchain tool enabling manufacturers to directly integrate with every single one of their suppliers and sub-suppliers as far back as needed to the source of the raw material. Each supplier can be using a free lightweight MES from Arcstone called arc.lite to generate all the necessary digital data for compliance, just in time manufacturing and real-time production information for the key manufacturer.
3. Could you tell us what are some of the challenges faced in developing such medical 4.0 technologies and how has Arcstone overcome them?
The two key halves of Medical 4.0 consist of the portion on personalised patient care and high mix low volume manufacturing to support this hyper-personalisation. As technologies advanced towards enabling personalised medicine and care, the manufacturing ecosystem would need to dramatically shift and adjust to keep up. With this, Arcstone strives to help manufacturers overcome this challenge with two key aspects:
- Real-time Data: Ensuring that a strong foundation of data is set up for manufacturers to leverage across all their operations, from the ones that are manual, to ones that are fully automated. Centralising data to make things better allows engineers, managers, and operators to reach higher productivity, act faster, and resolve bottlenecks before it becomes an issue. Arcstone has helped manufacturers globally to tackle these real-time issues and enabled factories to maximise productivity, yield, and quality through using data.
- Modular Solutions: As the industry rapidly evolves, equipment, processes, and work will start to change quickly. Regulatory agencies will be rushing to catch up, but that means new solutions will start to enter the market fast. Ensuring modular toolsets that are plug and play, can be easily integrated and adapted for a variety of use cases is critical for a solution to be sustainable or would need to be scrapped. Arcstone helps manufacturers by providing simple drag and drop toolsets, fully flexible with open APIs to enable easy integration with new equipment, processes, and software at a click of a button. This type of modular capability ensures that as the industry advances at a break-neck pace, new toolsets and solutions can always be quickly and easily integrated into Arcstone’s suite of toolests, enabling manufacturers to always take advantage of the latest and greatest solutions in the market.
4. Medical 4.0 innovations have streamlined tasks performed by clinicians and scientists like never before, but there are fears that the integration of too many technologies will only further the widening skills gap. How does Arcstone plan to drive talent improvement for the next generation while helping them keep up with rapidly advancing technologies?
In partnership with academic institutions globally, Arcstone is helping to train the next generation of Digital Manufacturing Experts with classroom learning to shop floor experience.
Our university programmes for students cultivate hands-on and practical knowledge on industry 4.0 and digital transformation, and upskill students with future-ready skill sets to enter the industry 4.0 workforce. These are offered free of charge to universities and students. Through our programmes, we aim to enable the next generation talent and re-skilling experienced workforce to drive: Data literacy; Digital tools for workers; Upskilling and talent improvement; Productivity improvements; Increased utilisation; and Improved quality.
Our digitalisation method covers the following areas:
- Education: Comprehensive training and workshops conducted by Arcstone and free arc.lite setup for student projects. We have established several partnerships with universities including the National University of Singapore, Temasek Polytechnic, and many more. These workshops provide students with the expertise to handle our arc.lite MES and gain valuable experience in Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation.
- Connection: Arcstone brings together SMEs and students for synergistic projects, as well as supporting SMEs for solution deployment in factories. In partnership with local SMEs, students under the educational programme will be able to work on synergistic projects and apply their skills and training with the SMEs. It will also help to foster research collaboration through industry practice and real-world projects, giving students a chance to solidify their skills and competencies.
- Utilisation: Students get first-hand experience implementing advanced tools for digital transformation projects and help to forge lasting connections between students and potential employers. In the last phase of the programme, students will be able to leverage Arcstone’s wide network of industry-leading clients and partners. Students who have gone through the programme will have the capabilities to help manufacturers digitally innovate, putting them in ideal positions for employment and/or advancement.
- Our government partnerships are also supported by Singapore Economic Development Board’s initiative to groom digital champions and entice companies to move their business across Southeast Asia to enter Singapore for manufacturing.
5. Arcstone’s recent launch of a joint laboratory with A*STAR has set high hopes of boosting digital manufacturing in the industry, what can we look forward to in the coming years?
As part of a S$18M funded initiative, Arcstone partnered with The Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), led by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), in partnership with the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), to create greater value for the manufacturing sector in Singapore particularly by pushing the boundaries in areas of sustainability through the adoption of data-driven practices including vision systems, machine learning, AI and more. By bringing visibility to the entire manufacturing process, Arcstone helps to create an environment conducive to green production.
arc.lab (A*STAR digital manufacturing joint lab) has a three-year plan to create IIoT-enabled sustainability solutions to help manufacturers reduce environmental footprint and achieve business excellence. Through this, we aim to:
- Enable real-time sustainability performance by tapping on live data feed and IIoT connectivity to instil loyalty and trust in their customers.
- Optimise Energy Consumption Pattern by co-developing a productivity and energy management platform for local industries to reduce cost and consume fewer resources.
- Support early-stage product design decision making with millions of data points of comprehensive knowledge of product impact and suggest design improvement.
Arcstone holds a strong footprint in Asia, and we will be looking at expanding to the US in 2022. Arcstone’s supply chain management tool, arc.net, leverages our footprint in Asia to provide large enterprises headquartered in the US and Europe full visibility over their suppliers and factory operations based in Asia. As the HQs in the U.S. and Europe continue demanding real-time data from their suppliers, Arcstone’s arc.lite and arc.ops tool sets can be deployed at more facilities to accelerate Arcstone’s growth. [APBN]
About the Interviewee
Willson Deng, CEO of Arcstone
An industrial engineer by trade, Willson has implemented improvement projects in manufacturing industries ranging from aeronautics to smart meters, wineries, gourmet chocolates, glass production and pharmaceuticals. He founded Arcstone in 2013, after he had been designing production simulation software for the world’s largest bio-manufacturers.