Continuous improvements in the life sciences industry expedite the development and delivery of new products to the market. From pharmaceuticals and biotech to environmental sciences and food processing services, breakthroughs in technology and product advancements are happening every day to help improve speed to market. 

The life sciences industry encounters many challenges in executing project design and construction. Challenges include labor concerns, remote project teams, construction materials manufacturing delays, shipping delays, cost increases, as well as many other issues. These factors will have a long-lasting impact on the life sciences industry and have led to improvements and creative solutions that are getting products from R&D to production faster than ever before.

For example, COVID-19 drove many organizations to deviate from their standard processes and procedures to allow for quicker delivery that was needed to get lifesaving vaccines to the public in large quantities. Project teams continue to utilize the knowledge, practices and results gained over the past several years because of those efforts. However, the need for project teams to improve speed to market will continue, leading to the creation of new methods and the improvement of existing manufacturing elements.

Flexible Manufacturing
A loud and clear message that is coming from biotech, pharmaceutical and other development manufacturers in the life sciences industry is the need for increased flexibility in combination with streamlined production strategies. 

Flexibility can be increased through the implementation of single-use — or disposable — technology and systems. This option offers a quicker turnaround as a result of less validation, cleaning and sterilization needed prior to use, as well as shorter equipment procurement lead times and reduced utility usage compared to traditional methods. This single-use technology has matured over the past decade and it continues to be a key element for manufacturers needing to improve speed to market while also reducing initial capital costs. 

Rapid Deployment

The time it takes to deploy a new product to consumers is one of the most important aspects of production for life sciences manufacturers. The length of time it can take to increase the capacity of an existing manufacturing space — or even build a brand new one — in order to produce in-demand products is impacted by many factors, including identifying the right facility construction method for a business’s goals. From resilient and rapid facility/space implementation and suitability to reduced risk, it’s important to weigh design and construction options. 

Depending on a project owner’s needs, the most common manufacturing facility construction delivery approaches include conventional on-site building or modular/podular construction, where modules/pods are built off-site and then brought to a location to be assembled. With the modular approach, utilizing an off-site method offers many benefits including improved safety, fewer workers on-site, higher quality control and improved timelines. The use of these pre-built systems provides the framework for the standardization of unit operations across multiple projects and site locations. This standardization allows for decreased design timelines as well as uniformity in maintenance and upgrade plans across multiple sites.

Looking ahead, the off-site fabrication approach will continue to take hold across the life sciences industry as one of the most commonly used methods. Project teams will look for ways to modularize equipment and components that are not currently using this approach as pressures continue to rise to improve speed to market. 

Design and Engineering Technology

Architectural and engineering (A&E) firms are continually challenged to execute design faster without affecting a project's quality standards. Along with rapid development, increased integration with the client, construction teams and downstream operations is becoming the normal execution strategy. As such, A&E firms are utilizing more complex technologies to maintain team alignment, encourage ongoing and real-time feedback from all parties involved, and quickly develop and secure relevant documentation. 

Web-based technologies such as Autodesk Construction Cloud allow for increased communication and integration with the whole team. Teams are being challenged to sharpen detail within their 3D models, increase early vendor integration into design, embrace trade partners’ integration for constructability, and welcome client embedment with design teams to allow for ongoing scope alignment. In recent years, project design teams have had to rapidly adapt to working from various remote locations and get quickly accustomed to using collaboration software to improve coordination during the design and construction of projects. 

Artificial Intelligence

Global artificial intelligence (AI) in the life sciences industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate greater than 25% by 2030. One of the main drivers of AI in the life sciences space involves a rapid rate of adoption among all industries and the accuracy of applying AI to big data. Data collection, data management, patient monitoring, clinical trials, and R&D are the initial areas that AI is being applied. Investments in AI will continue to increase within the industry to address the resource constraints and pressing demands for state-of-the-art drugs. This approach of using AI lends itself well to the specialized therapies market (gene therapy), which can develop specialized therapies for individual patients. 

AI utilization in the engineering and construction industry is still in the early stages of development. Engineering and construction companies are starting to investigate how to effectively utilize AI, especially around the data and document management side of large engineering and construction projects. The adoption of AI technology in the development of construction projects will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate compared to AI's usage in the discovery of new medicines and improvements in clinical trials. 

Across the board, the life sciences industry is steadfast in its commitment to shortening the project life cycle from R&D to full-scale production while maintaining stringent standards of quality and safety. Despite persistent challenges, project teams continue to embrace innovative technologies and methodologies, all geared toward the shared objective of delivering lifesaving drugs to end users quicker and more efficiently than ever before.


The landscape of life sciences manufacturing is undergoing a significant transformation.

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Stephen Petrus has over 20 years of international consulting, engineering and construction experience working with companies in the industrial, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, technology and federal sectors. He is a licensed professional engineer as well as a certified LEED AP BD+C professional.