• Sustainability
  • DE&I
  • Pandemic
  • Finance
  • Legal
  • Technology
  • Regulatory
  • Global
  • Pricing
  • Strategy
  • R&D/Clinical Trials
  • Opinion
  • Executive Roundtable
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Executive Profiles
  • Leadership
  • Market Access
  • Patient Engagement
  • Supply Chain
  • Industry Trends

Adapting to Remote Workers and Services: Q&A with Rebecca Marquez, Director of Custom Research at PMMI


Marquez discusses the results of a recent survey about how elements of the industry are reacting to a post remote-work world.

Rebecca Marquez

Rebecca Marquez
Director of custom research

During the pandemic, businesses were forced to adapt to remote workers and services. As the industry moves into a post-pandemic world, many businesses have a new view of working remotely. Rebecca Marquez, director of custom research at PMMI, spoke with Pharmaceutical Executive about her firm’s recent survey ‘2024 Trends in Remote Services and Monitoring’ and how the industry is adapting.

Pharmaceutical Executive: Can you discuss the general findings of the survey?
Rebecca Marquez: Generally, the report is on remote system monitoring and what is on the uptick with end users. It looks into what they’re looking for to solve their problems. There’s been a lot of talk recently about after-market services, and remote is a big part of that. Users are finding some challenges in what’s available in after-market. What they’re looking for is remote, but this is about the specifics and how OEMs meet those needs.

There were a few things that we asked about in regards to remote support. There was virtual factory acceptance training (FAT), remote training, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and remote commissioning. We did see some changes because a lot of things had to go remote during COVID. We’re getting out of that now, but what some end-users like to do is instead of having a team of 10 OEMs come to the plant, they might do two OEMs at the plant and then eight virtually.

What we really looked at is what is it about remote that end-users are really looking for.

PE: What were the challenges that people are facing with remote services?
Marquez: One of the big findings in the report is that prior to COVID, there was a lot of resistance because CPGs were thinking about the security issues that allowing remote access to plants, facilities, and equipment would bring. Then the pandemic hit and going remote became a necessity in a lot of cases. People were not allowed to visit plants. Now, because of that, there’s a lot more openness to allowing OEMs access remotely.

It makes things easier for CPGs. One of the examples of that is the FAT process. For a long time, when you would have a FAT on a piece of equipment, all of the OEMs involved in that process would need to come to the plant and it would be a big group effort. Now, because there’s more openness to remote access, there might only be two people visiting the plant and the rest are virtual.

It's just as effective, and users are using that more often. It’s because of the openness to allowing that access.

PE: Now that we’re moving to a post-pandemic world, are customers looking for a best of worlds scenario when it comes to in-person and remote services?
Marquez: I would say yes. In most cases, it’s a question of cost. It’s much less expensive to fly in two OEMs instead of ten people and have to put them up for however the long process takes. It’s a money saver. It’s also more convenient. There’s less scheduling.

PE: The report seemed to suggest that was more interest in remote support, and less support in things like virtual commissioning. Why is that?
Marquez: I’ve given a lot of examples about virtual FAT, and that’s just one example. The interest in remote support is determined by workforce challenges across the board. CPGs can’t keep people in and they’re having a hard time retaining people for certain things. OEMs are facing the same issues. To have an OEM be able to access a piece of equipment when it’s down or having other problems, that’s a huge one.

To commission a machine, you need people there in the plant. That function requires humans to be there. Virtual FAT had low interest, and maybe now it’s just easier to have some people participate remotely.

The main thing is remote support and that’s just driven by a lack of skilled workforce. It’s difficult to have people on the CPG side for maintenance and it’s difficult to have people on the OEM side available. Technician availability is a real issue.

PE: Is it trending towards a hybrid work model?
Marquez: It’s nice to have the options available for virtual participation. These factories are in production and there are simply times when you need to have a person come in. We’re developing things that are almost as good as having a technician there, on the ground in the plant. Those things are becoming an option, and those things are sometimes slower to pick up. You might have forms of remote support.

We are moving towards a system where instead of having a heavy reliance on one or the other, it’s a hybrid system.

Related Videos
Related Content