How life sciences
can fuel innovation
A Q&A with a former pharmaceutical real estate and facilities executive
Today’s life sciences organizations are facing challenges on several fronts, from downward pricing pressures, increased competition for talent, and declining returns on research and development investments. Adding to the pressure recently was the urgent need to produce COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Increasingly, companies are recognizing that facilities management (FM) can have a significant positive impact on operational challenges—and add strategic value, too. Why not focus on science, research and development, and let an expert provider take care of your facilities?
In the following question-and-answer session, Roger Humphrey, the global leader of JLL’s Life Sciences Corporate Solutions practice, discusses how biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies can benefit from FM’s growing strategic role.
Q: Over the past decade, FM has evolved into a more strategic role than simply keeping the lights on. How are FM teams adding value in life sciences companies today?
Humphrey: Today’s forward-looking FM teams are helping address critical challenges for life sciences companies, in both their offices and technical facilities. For instance, replacing a ventilation system might previously have been viewed simply as a cost, but today we know that improved indoor air quality boosts employee productivity and results in net savings.
Well-maintained facilities are especially critical in addressing the war for scarce life sciences talent. C-suite leaders have recognized the competitive advantage of workplaces that inspire innovation, promote wellness and make it easier to be productive. An FM team can add strategic value by shaping workplace experiences that help attract and retain talent. Forward-looking FM teams are adding top-line value, too, by initiating concierge services, new workplace technologies, office designs focused on wellness and other concepts that boost engagement and productivity, and reduce costly turnover.
Q: How is FM adding value in life sciences laboratories and production facilities?
Humphrey: Life sciences laboratories and production environments have become increasingly complex and challenging to manage. Emerging therapies, including the COVID-19 vaccines, cell and gene therapies, require sophisticated R&D and production systems. Adding to the challenge, the FDA has begun to expect faster access to more data from life sciences regulated facilities. FM teams are on the frontlines of optimizing uptime and regulatory compliance—and the stakes are high.
Any hiccup in compliance can cause costly delays, FDA citations or 483 inspection observations. Even worse, a compliance mistake can lead to a safety or quality breach that poses an existential threat to the activities performed at that facility.
Life sciences companies are looking to their FM teams to be fully trained in regulatory standard operating procedures (SOPs), Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPAs), quality assurance, calibration methodologies and other best practices for technical environments. A quality management system is also essential to track and store training records, quality plans and regulatory documentation in compliance with the FDA’s 21 CFR Part 11 regulation.
Many biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies seek concierge-level support for their R&D employees to improve their day-to-day experience and productivity. JLL has been able to provide this service efficiently with organizations who have partnered with us on a facility management program.
Q: Life sciences companies are undergoing digital transformation in many areas of their operations. How is technology changing the way life sciences facilities are managed?
Humphrey: We’re seeing digital transformation in every aspect of FM, from smart building and FM management systems to mobile apps and digital whiteboards. New workplace and FM technologies are emerging every day to improve the human experience, streamline FM operations and support data-driven decision-making.
For example, some FM teams are adopting workplace mobile apps that streamline everyday tasks that interfere with productivity, like booking a meeting room. They’re using the IoT and artificial intelligence-driven analytics to optimize occupancy and improve the employee experience, tracking data from sensors and other sources to understand workspace usage and preferences.
Behind the scenes, automation is streamlining the daily work of FM. For example, an FM professional today can use a cloud-based mobile app to automate workflow, procure vetted vendors, track repairs, manage budgets and more. JLL is using smart building management platforms, artificial intelligence, data and analytics to reduce our clients’ building operating costs while enhancing employee wellbeing through responsive temperature and light controls, and improved indoor air quality.
Technology sensors are an additional layer of technological innovation. With the right implementation, sensors can detect potential issues with key critical equipment such as vibration, temperature fluctuations and pressure irregularities.
Q: How is the facilities management evolution driving the growth of outsourcing?
Humphrey: We’ve seen growing interest in FM partnership not only for office space, but also for highly regulated “behind the yellow line” spaces. One reason is that facilities issues are often a major management distraction from the mission of providing life-saving medicines if an organization lacks a well-rounded FM team. Now, as aging Baby Boomers leave the FM workforce, companies are finding it more challenging to acquire and develop technical expertise and experience at the level required for today’s demands.
Another reason to outsource is to gain access to new technologies that would otherwise require significant investment. When a company is focused on life sciences innovation, it’s not necessarily able to stay up to date on advances in building and workplace technologies and best practices. In contrast, the leading FM service providers are constantly investing in digital technology and training.
To fill the gaps, many life sciences organizations have been partnering with FM service providers. Over the past decade, leading FM service providers have invested in talent, technologies and best practices for the most challenging life sciences R&D and production environments. Companies that have tapped these resources have benefited from cost savings, improved service delivery, more engaging workplaces, improved compliance and uptime, and more.
Some organizations have even embarked on their second or third generation FM partnership agreements. They’re viewing their next-generation FM outsourcing agreements as true partnerships, raising their expectations to unlock additional cost savings, stimulate FM innovation and enhance the human experience. Now that they’ve validated the concept, these companies are eager to pursue additional value from their FM partnerships.