Virtual Inspections of Supply Chain and Manufacturing Facilities for Pharma and Life Sciences

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA announced a temporary postponement of all routine surveillance facility inspections. But life sciences companies still need to conduct their own internal compliance audits, and to guarantee quality throughout their supply chains. How can pharma manufacturers conduct such inspections when the FDA itself isn’t able to do so?

Forward-thinking life sciences firms like Thermo Fisher and Acino have deployed a new technology in order to meet this challenge: virtual inspections.

How can pharma companies conduct supply chain and manufacturing inspections virtually? Read on to learn more.

Virtual Inspections Across Various Fields

Across various industries,  the coronavirus pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in the need for virtual inspection technologies. For example, in the residential construction sector, only 4 percent of builders worked with virtual building inspections before the pandemic. Now,  with social distancing in effect, 20 percent of municipalities have encouraged some form of technology for virtual construction inspections. In the life science industries as well, research and contract manufacturing operations have turned to remote inspections in order to keep their operations underway. Utilizing such solutions, especially during a time like COVID-19, allows inspectors to work remotely and communicate effectively with those working on site.

The available technologies, however, have limitations. With few tools designed for this application, many companies have turned to familiar videoconferencing apps like Zoom and Skype. These apps are far from ideal for virtual inspections, but they’ve allowed companies to keep projects moving, supporting productivity and revenue while maintaining safety for staff.

Of course, virtual inspections aren’t suitable for all cases, especially when the tools provide inadequate coverage of the site or process. Some reviews are too complicated for virtual. It comes down to the business and the inspector to decide whether virtual offers enough information to sign off an inspection.

But for a vast majority of supply chain and manufacturing operations, virtual inspections can be a crucial tool for maintaining business operations during the COVID pandemic, and for enabling cost and time savings as operations return to a more normal footing.

Using AVATOUR for Virtual Inspections

Standard videoconferencing apps like FaceTime and Zoom simply weren’t designed for site-specific inspections. Inspectors and auditors need to see the entire location in order to be effective, and asking onsite personnel to wave a phone around is a poor way of communicating the full context of a target site.

Enter AVATOUR. Where standard videoconferencing fails to deliver, AVATOUR provides a fully immersive view of the inspection site with live 360° remote presence. 

Using AVATOUR, participants can be ‘present’ in a real place anywhere in the world. Inspectors have full access to a location, with the freedom to look anywhere during the course of their virtual examinations. And that’s precisely what they can do with AVATOUR’s innovative technology.

All that’s required is an inexpensive 360° camera and an Android mobile device. For the most effective experience, inspectors can use an optional VR headset to immerse themselves into the location, making for a more natural and effective inspection experience.

Exploring the location in real-time using a VR headset or phone permits inspectors to see the full context of the site, not just what the on-site personnel want to show. This allows for thorough and effective supply chain and drug manufacturing inspections, whether the inspector is across town or thousands of miles away.

Using AVATOUR’s Remote Presence, inspectors can guarantee that operations are progressing efficiently and that everything is running well. For those that are on-site, inspectors can ask questions to have a better understanding of the current operations.  

Never have virtual inspections been so productive, efficient, and useful. 

The Future of Virtual Inspections

What will be the future of virtual inspections, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually brought under control?

Virtual inspections will continue to deliver significant value even in a post-pandemic world. As virtual inspections cut the costs and time allotted to travel, businesses can save money, with inspectors having more time available. This makes solutions like AVATOUR a valuable tool to help cut costs and boost productivity in pharmaceutical businesses and beyond.

Not only that, but virtual inspections also provide support for corporate green initiatives, enabling a reduction in air and vehicle travel and a significant decrease in carbon emissions.

On-site inspections will never be completely replaced. The most complex supply chain and manufacturing inspections will always require at least some number of on-site reviews. But as technology like AVATOUR continues to make inspections more feasible and effective, these new procedures will continue to gain in popularity. For many life sciences and pharmaceutical companies, virtual inspections have already become a crucial part of their operations.

If you want to reap the benefits of virtual inspections, now’s the time to get involved. Discover how AVATOUR’s Remote Presence can work for your company here.

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