Over the last decade, the pharmaceutical industry has seen overall growth, unexpected breakthroughs, sudden mergers, and just as sudden contractions. That’s before we even mention the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic. When the market is that turbulent, businesses understandably look for reliability wherever they can find it.

They’re looking for that reliability in many areas—their customer base, product lines, manufacturing processes, and R&D. One area many should also look at is their administrative processes, specifically physical security. Security is often treated as a cost center when pharmaceutical companies should look at it as an opportunity to create operational efficiencies and even a competitive advantage by using newer, more effective smart security management technologies. 

This guide explores pharmaceutical companies' physical security challenges and lays out a clear process they can follow to evaluate and deploy the most effective physical security strategy possible. It also includes use cases for how pharmaceutical companies can benefit from those new technology platforms.

What are the top physical security challenges for pharmaceutical companies? 

Pharmaceutical companies face many security threats and must deploy various measures to address them. They also must navigate a complex regulatory landscape, which can make their safety and security measures even harder to maintain.

A range of security threats and safety needs   

Your physical security systems play a crucial role in safeguarding your company’s production lines and offices and your intellectual property, patents, and reputation. Each faces its own unique set of constantly-evolving threats. So it's essential to establish tight control over your facility’s perimeter, keys to access resources within your facility, and often important physical assets themselves. Pharmaceutical companies must adopt a proactive, data-driven approach to their physical security. 

Strict compliance and auditing standards   

Meeting your compliance obligations involves navigating a complex regulatory landscape. Security breaches and even small human errors can have outsized consequences. For example, if your organization unintentionally grants the wrong person access to sensitive locations or IP. That means your security workflows should be designed to ensure absolute reliability in granting appropriate access to your facility and sensitive assets.

How can you design a reliable physical security program for a pharmaceutical company? 

Comprehensive security doesn’t have to be complex security. In fact, the more streamlined, the better for most pharmaceutical businesses. Too much complexity introduces too many potential vulnerabilities. We recommend following a straightforward but comprehensive 1, 2, 3 plan to create a reliable, streamlined security program. 

Conduct a risk assessment of your business   

Before applying new security policies or deploying new systems, you must conduct a top-to-bottom risk assessment. Even if you think you have a fairly good understanding of your pharmaceutical company’s current risk profile, you are likely unaware of vulnerabilities or new challenges. 

Pharmaceutical companies can face various potential threats, from workplace accidents, to breaches in facility security and disruptions in the supply chain. It's crucial to recognize that these risks transcend your facility's boundaries. It's important to consider both local and regional threats in addition to on-site factors. For example, whether your facility is at risk of flood, fire, or natural disasters. 

Establish security protocols for your pharmaceutical company   

Ensuring a safe pharmaceutical production, R&D, or administrative facility involves more than just basic perimeter defenses, like fences and locked doors. To really protect your corporate resources, you should use the information from your risk assessment to create simple, clear security protocols for everyone who works there. 

The legitimate movement of your personnel can also create security risks, so it’s also important to think about how people come and go from your facility. Workers should only be authorized to access the spaces, assets, and keys they need to do their immediate jobs. For example, if someone's job doesn't require them to go to your R&D lab, they shouldn’t be able to access the physical keys for its doors.

Increased accountability for equipment use  

Negligent or malicious behavior is harder to conceal when smart lockers provide precise transaction data and instant loss reporting. Take, for instance, the issue of drug diversion in EMS agencies. By attaching RFID tags to medication vials, the system can promptly alert managers when a vial is missing when EMTs return kits.

Deploy physical security management systems  

At many pharmaceutical companies, security and safety measures fall to a handful of personnel carrying out manual processes. Manual security is rarely efficient and effective. Here, technology can help. Smart management systems can automatically secure your keys and assets, manage access requests, and send alerts to supervisors if something unusual happens, for example, someone requesting keys to a restricted area. 

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What are the use cases for smart technology management systems in pharma? 

Smart key and asset management systems can help solve various problems that pharmaceutical firms face, securing their supply chain and meeting Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards. 

Contact Real Time Networks today for expert advice on designing your pharmaceutical company’s new physical security program. 

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