BioPharma facility trends to watch

By Lane Williams / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
July 6, 2017

The biopharma industry is in a constant state of flux. Increased competition, expiring patents, reduced drug prices, and ever-changing regulatory oversight are keeping pharmaceutical manufacturers on their toes. And with facilities being a major investment for these businesses, it’s no surprise that facilities services has an impact on how they address industry changes.

How will these changes impact the way biopharma companies operate their facilities? Here’s a look at three of the biggest trends affecting biopharma facilities services in the coming months.

Creating facilities that attract and retain top talent

Competition for skilled employees in the biopharma industry is stiff. Forty-seven percent of hiring managers at life sciences companies say that finding quality talent is the biggest threat to meeting their business goals, according to the 2016 Randstad Life Sciences Workplace Trends study. A close second is increased competitive pressure. This underscores the need for highly skilled employees who can bring innovative ideas to the table. While compensation packages and growth opportunities are key factors in attracting and retaining qualified employees, having innovative, well-run facilities is also part of making a company attractive to potential and current employees.

In a sense, the workspace has become a "perk," especially with millennials who often expect creative, non-traditional workspaces. Biopharma facility managers now must focus attention on creating and maintaining innovative office space, while still maintaining the high standards required to operate their regulated environments. Many are even offering onsite amenities and concierge services, such as car washes and laundry.

Some companies may look to their facilities services provider to offer or subcontract these services, while others may work directly with vendors. In either case, the facilities services staff is an integral part of making sure these amenities are delivered properly, since their processes often intersect with those of the concierge services. All parties need to be integrated and engaged with each other so employees have a seamless experience. 

Preparing for increased regulatory oversight

In November of this year, the second phase of the Federal Drug Supply Chain Security Act goes into effect. It sets new standards for the labeling of pharmaceutical products. This is just one of several new regulations expected to impact the industry. And, as regulations increase, so does the number of audits. Facilities services, especially janitorial services, are under the spotlight here.

One way companies are addressing compliance concerns is by incorporating technology into cleaning processes. Everything from the frequency of the training that cleaning staff receives to detailed internal inspection reports can now be kept digitally. Facility managers can have this information at their fingertips when an external audit calls for records. Additionally, by integrating SOPs into a digital, automated system, companies can reduce the likelihood of human errors.

Facing continued pressure to reduce costs

While companies are looking to make greater investments in the search for talent, they face lower drug prices and increased competition from generics and biosimilar products. The combined effect of those two factors is increased pressure to reduce costs. And with facilities being a major cost center for most businesses, they’ll be looking to find ways to make their facilities more cost-efficient.

Because biopharma environments are complex – they typically contain office spaces and regulated facilities in their portfolios – reducing costs must be done carefully. Some companies will look to outsourcing while others will try to find ways to make in-house services more efficient. For companies that own their facilities, extending the lifespan of aging infrastructure will also be crucial to achieving long-term cost control.

Upgrading energy systems, placing higher scrutiny on sustainability, and finding ways to service facilities more efficiently are just a few ways these companies will be looking to reduce costs. Preventive maintenance and forward-thinking approaches to energy, cleaning, and other facilities services are becoming an increasingly important part of operating biopharma facilities in the coming months and years.

To stay on the cutting edge of today’s rapidly-changing industry, biopharma businesses need to take a balanced approach to managing their facilities. Some areas will require upfront investment to reduce operating costs in the long run, enhance the company’s brand, and meet regulatory requirements. However, that can be balanced with a smart approach to operating facilities more cost effectively, which can provide immediate cost savings.

Lane Williams is vice president of sales, high tech and bioPharma, for ABM 


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