From Silicon to Medicine: Steffen Lang Details Novartis' Digital Makeover in Singapore

22 March 2024 | Friday | News

In an enlightening dialogue, Steffen Lang outlines the transformative digital and automation advancements at Novartis' expanded Singapore facility and their global impact.

Steffen Lang, President of Operations at Novartis, shares an insider's perspective with BioPharma APAC on the digital transformation and strategic expansion of the company's Singapore manufacturing site. Highlighting the integration of digital and automation solutions, Lang reveals how this initiative is set to enhance global healthcare delivery and fortify Singapore's position in the biopharmaceutical industry.

What specific advancements in digital and automation solutions are being implemented in the expansion of Novartis' Singapore manufacturing facility?

The expansion will allow us to deploy digital and automation solutions and enhance manufacturing productivity, improve operational efficiency, and upskill our workforce. 

An example of how digital solutions enhances our productivity is the implementation of our Manufacturing Execution System where we digitalized 75% of our manual processes, saving a total of 55,000 sheets of papers in the last two years and reducing 50% manual errors.

Overall, these advancements in digital and automation solutions will increase our manufacturing capabilities and capacities, enabling us to increase our production for life-saving medication.


How does this expansion align with Novartis' global strategy for biopharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chain resilience?


Biotherapeutics now account for almost one-half of all recent drug approvals and have enormous potential to address unmet needs of patients across a wide range of diseases. To meet this increasing demand for biologics, the Novartis early-stage biologics portfolio has been growing significantly in terms of capacities and investment.  With the focus shifting to Biologics, this site expansion will help us stay ahead of demand for biologics in the mid to longer term by supporting the company’s increasingly sophisticated pipeline with the most advanced technical infrastructure, alongside the highest level of capabilities.

Our new facility in Singapore, which will be operational by early 2026, is timely and will help in bolstering the biopharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chain across Asia as well as strengthen local capabilities and upskill talent in Singapore.

The expansion will also enable Novartis to support many other pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies in manufacturing their products, further anchoring Singapore as a critical node in the global biomedicines supply chain. 


Could you elaborate on the types of therapeutic antibodies that the expanded facility will focus on, and the impact they are expected to have on patient care globally?


The new highly automated state-of-the-art facilities can further manufacture high quality monoclonal antibodies (mAbs).  These are biologic therapies that is used to treat immunology / respiratory conditions such as urticaria (hives) and arthritis.


What are the anticipated benefits of upskilling the workforce as part of this expansion, and how does Novartis plan to implement these training programs?


The expansion is set to create 100 employment opportunities for talents from scientists to engineers, technicians, and operational personnel reinforcing our commitment to enhancing Singapore’s biologics innovation capabilities, cultivating talent, and strengthening Singapore’s position as Asia’s leading biopharmaceutical hub.

We anticipate enhancement in overall productivity, as employees gain efficiency through upskilling, leading to streamlined processes and improved output.  The training programs include a combination of on-the-job training, internal / external courses and e-learning.  These programs will develop employee competencies in biological processes, equip them with the skills in leveraging digital solutions and enhance their knowledge in environment sustainability to meet our sustainability targets.   


How will the expanded manufacturing capabilities contribute to Singapore's role in the global biopharmaceutical supply chain?


Novartis' site in Singapore is the company's first biologics production facility in Asia and one of the largest biologics manufacturing investments in the country. With this expansion, our state-of-the-art facilities strengthen Singapore as a supply node for high quality biotherapeutics for patients in the region.  

The expansion will also enable Novartis to support many other pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies in manufacturing their products, further anchoring Singapore as a critical node in the global biomedicines supply chain.  


Can you share insights on the sustainability measures or eco-friendly practices being integrated into the expansion of the manufacturing site?


We work to become environmentally sustainable by reducing emissions, water use, and waste. We aim to become carbon neutral in our own operations by 2025, become carbon neutral across our value chain by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions across our value chain by 2040, reduce water consumption in our own operations by half by 2025, and become plastic neutral by 2030. To achieve these targets, Novartis Singapore is committed to delivering a technical and commercial solution program, to be implemented in the next two to three years.  


Novartis has implemented an onsite Solar Photovoltaic Farm able to generate 2.9GWH/y of renewable energy and a cogeneration plant generating electricity and steam. With the upcoming site expansion, Novartis will centralize the building cooling infrastructure with high efficiency chillers. All of these will enable an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 3500 tons/y.  


For the near future, Novartis is planning to source biogas for clean energy and apply onsite installations of large Biomass systems, which will generate Electricity and Steam. In addition, Novartis is collaborating with local developers to fund future solar technology to provide additional renewable energy to the site.  


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