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Pharmaceuticals are no stranger to us since they are vital to people’s lives and health. Across the world, China has become the biggest market of medication due to its large population, and it is driving the pharmaceutical industry to shift from growth-oriented to quality-oriented, as well as moving toward intelligentization and digitalization after rapid development. In a post-pandemic world, the business environment of pharmaceutical companies is facing massive changes—the higher emphasis on technologies and innovations, continuous promotion of medical reform schemes and occurrence of public health emergencies and pandemics—which result in a reshuffling and reshaping landscape and increasing knowledge on digital products. While traditional pharmaceutical companies are embarking on digitalization, those that have been around are already stepping into intelligentization and taking advantage of the varied social awareness and political incentives during the pandemic.
To clarify the relationship between the development of the pharmaceutical industry and digital transformation, explore the progress of digitalization and discover its future possibilities, the reporter interviewed Shu Lian, General Manager of Big Data Management Center, Buchang Pharmaceuticals, and Henry Ko, General Manager, China Entercom, for different perspectives in the practice and development of digitalization in the pharmaceutical industry.
The pharmaceutical industry is indispensable in safeguarding the health and well-being of people, and has made significant progress in research, production and sales by combining advanced technologies. Entering the digital era, internal and external factors such as policy initiatives and increasing demands on digitalization have propelled the industry to further promote the digitalization progress.
On the outside, in addition to improving drug traceability in drug circulation, the pharmaceutical industry is deeply affected by the advancement of centralized procurement and negotiations in the medical reform and pays more attention to the R&D of drugs, which will only result in a higher degree of digital transformation, said Shu Lian.
From the inside, digitalization and informatization will facilitate the R&D, manufacturing and sales of pharmaceutical companies and enhance their competitiveness in today’s market, said Henry Ko.
The practice of digital transformation, primarily driven by internal development needs, has benefited the pharmaceutical companies at present and in the foreseeable future. According to Shu Lian, it has also raised the efficiency of management and operations in five ways:
1. Offer sufficient information using digital tools for more scientific and logical decision-making of the management;
2. Optimize business systems inclusive of production, sales, warehousing and transportation through informationization, and enhance the operation-finance integration with improved management and execution performance;
3. Promote marketing management with digital means to gain insights into the market and strengthen the sales ability, given that the integration, interplay and complementary relationship of online and offline businesses are critical;
4. Lower operating costs and enhance efficiency via digitalization to streamline processes and enable more effective communications;
5. Reform the pharmaceutical industry with digitalization, for instance, full tracing that involves the collaboration of multiple business entities cannot be empowered by purely manual labor.
Partners are the accelerator of digital transformation, and will be selected on a case-by-case basis due to different demands of enterprises. In the case of Buchang Pharmaceuticals, Shu Lian indicated that it is critical to be informed of the partner’s clients, especially those in the pharmaceutical industry with similar scale and business, and that the maturity, experience and reliability of partners are way more important than technology and innovations.
These standards were taken into account when Buchang Pharmaceuticals chose China Entercom as its partner. To offer a one-stop, cutting-edge and reliable ICT solution integrating “networks, clouds, data centers, security and a series of value-added services”, China Entercom has 21 years of experience in MPLS network services and more than 15 years of experience in information security services, with multiple domestic and overseas certifications including the TRUCS Certification, TL9000, ISO9001, ISO20000, ISO27001 and ISO27017. Their collaboration was achieved because China Entercom can cater the needs of Buchang Pharmaceuticals and support its digital transformation with various well-established solutions. Indeed, pharmaceutical companies can go further and grow bigger through digital transformation, yet they should also adopt a multi-pronged approach to overcome the difficulties in transformation and seize the opportunity to foster the development of production and operation.
Shu Lian summarized the experience of Buchang Pharmaceuticals and came up with an effective path to digital transformation. First, it is essential for pharmaceutical companies to respond to the national policies and ride the wave to advance their informationization and transformation. In China and many other regions, relevant policies were issued to support and encourage digitalization. One example is the Plan for Development of the Digital Economy during the 14th Five-Year, which outlines the blueprint for promoting the development of digital economy in the 14th Five-Year Plan period with corresponding recommendations and requirements.
Secondly, by learning from other industries and companies, pharmaceutical companies can figure out the entry point and directions of digital transformation. Digitalization and informationization are long-term projects which cannot be done overnight, therefore enterprises need to be careful of the cost and invest steadily to empower digitalization.
Notably, the key to digital transformation of pharmaceutical companies lies in their management. Similar to the learning curve, they have to endure a long and often harsh period with various changes going on and affecting the whole picture. To deal with it, the management is required to have firm determination and comprehensive planning to promote the whole process from top to bottom regardless of how powerful the technology and solutions are.
To address the needs of development, shifting operations and production to the clouds, as well as a more secure and stable network environment are the expectations of pharmaceutical companies as they go digital.
Moving to clouds can better respond to a large number of user requests for full tracing and sales services as clouds are known for quick deployment and stable operating costs, which encourages the migration of both upstream and downstream businesses to clouds and has already become a trend in the pharmaceutical industry, explained Shu Lian.
However, from the perspective of cloud services, pharmaceutical companies should introduce a private cloud to protect the critical and confidential information transmitted from R&D to production lines, while hybrid and private clouds can be adopted in manufacturing and sales, pinpointed Henry Ko.
With the service capabilities of public clouds, private clouds, hybrid clouds and disaster recovery and backups, China Entercom has thorough knowledge of clouds as an ICT service provider and a cloud computing service provider of VMware vCLOUD POWERED/vCan Plan in the Mainland China. Through POC testing, international certifications and years of experience, China Entercom offers integrated services with consistent pre-sales and post-sales qualities, and customizes cloud services in various areas to meet the expected costs of pharmaceutical companies.
Networking is another focus for pharmaceutical companies as they are diving deeper into digitalization. For a manufacturing industry, the enterprises need to connect cross-regional production plants and physical stores to collaborate with each other, and to enable full tracing of pharmaceuticals, which is why an effective, safe and robust network environment comes in handy.
From deploying server rooms and optimizing the intranet setting to constructing the WAN, pharmaceutical companies have developed a clear vision and embarked on a number of implementations to smoothen the network transmission, said Shu Lian. To help accelerate digitalization and the development of overseas business, they expect their partners to offer well-established and sustainable services, while accumulating abundant networking experience to deploy networks and minimize usage costs.
That is why Buchang Pharmaceuticals has entered a more profound collaboration with China Entercom. Alongside its parent company CITIC Telecom CPC and ecosystem partners, China Entercom is committed to setting up a secure, stable and seamless network transmission environment for the overseas business development of pharmaceutical companies, based on its network coverage of 160 countries and regions, over 160 points of presences (POPs) and 60+ SD-WAN service gateways. Started from 2021, the collaboration of Buchang Pharmaceuticals and China Entercom have been on a fast track to realize high-speed connectivity of 10+ key internal branch nodes via China Entercom’s intelligent SD-WAN.
At present, regular communication and exchange of ideas are vital to foster the future development of digitalization as it is a relatively long-term process for Chinese pharmaceutical companies, stated Henry Ko. In view of this, by digging deeper into the healthcare industry, China Entercom hopes to develop more solutions for different needs and extend its product line to accelerate the digital transformation of the healthcare industry.
In the pharmaceutical industry, enterprises are undergoing comprehensive digitalization, said Shu Lian. Despite being a continuous and time-consuming process, digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry will be significantly driven by the internal and external environment, guided by related policies, and carried out in an organised and stable manner with China Entercom and other partners.
Shandong Buchang Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Buchang Pharmaceuticals) was founded in 2001 and completed its shareholding system reform in 2012. The company’s IPO application was approved by the Issuance Appraisal Committee of the China Securities Regulatory Commission in July 2016, and officially listed on November 18, 2016.
Throughout its 20 years of development, Buchang Pharmaceuticals has laid down the philosophy of “focusing on large disease species and cultivating large varieties”. Centered around proprietary traditional Chinese patent medicines, the company is committed to treating “serious and chronic diseases”, especially cardio-cerebrovascular diseases, with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) modernization. Over the years, it has taken advantage of TCM and become the leader in the cardio-cerebrovascular field, forming a multi-faceted product landscape that focuses on large disease species and cultivates large varieties.
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