Advanco, a Belgian IT company that has been automating pharma packaging plants for over 40 years, will now work with Syntegon (formerly, Bosch Packaging) on new or revamped serialization projects globally. But the news behind that might be equally significant: earlier this year, Advanco was purchased by Parabellum Investments, a London-based private equity company specializing in low- to mid-market companies. According to Alf Goebel, CEO of Advanco (and a Parabellum executive), “With most developed and developing economies having either already laid out the regulatory road map for serialization, or in the process of doing so, cost and time savings will be increasingly important for the pharmaceutical industry.” He says Advanco will grow both organically and through M&A in the serialization-for-life-sciences market.
Advanco has carved out an unusual position in the track-and-trace software arena: Level 3 site-management systems. [These levels are based on ISO standards for industrial software; in the track-and-trace instance, Level 1 refers to sensors and devices; Level 2, packaging-line machines; Level 3, collections of packaging lines or sites; and Level 4, enterprises (collections of sites). Some vendors also refer to Level 5, enterprise-to-enterprise or supplier-customer systems.] “By focusing on Level 3, using open-source software, and the ability to connect diverse Level 1-2 hardware with the enterprise-IT environment of a company, we provide flexibility both up and down the IT stack,” says Goebel.
Vendors who offer complete Level 1-4 stacks lock in the customer, he says, constraining the customer’s hardware and software options.
Advanco’s software, branded as ARC, has two modules: manufacturing execution and logistics execution. The former manages serial-number generation, master data management and data aggregation; the latter performs warehouse-management functions and inventory controls as per serial data.
From a business analyst perspective, Goebel might be right about where the track-and-trace software field is: mostly relatively small companies (ripe for acquisition); a market trending more toward revamping existing packaging lines systems rather than building new ones; and the combination of looming compliance deadlines with the finalization of many nations’ distribution standards. The pandemic has revealed key weaknesses in global pharma supply chains; the supply chain upgrades that Goebel envisions could provide a new level of resilience.