Unlocking Efficiency: The Importance of Commissioning in Data Centres

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Unlocking Efficiency: The Importance of Commissioning in Data Centres

Cloud platforms are often the focus when discussing application servers and other server-related infrastructure deployments. However, many organisations are deploying their applications and other services via a hybrid model across both cloud and traditional data centres. The need to maintain, update and build new data centres has not gone away due to the emergence of cloud infrastructure. Indeed, the growth of digital technologies across all sectors means that there is a greater need for private data centres than ever.


It is vital that these data centres get designed and built using industry best practices. Expert-led commissioning from day one of a data centre build project (or a refurbishment update project) is essential to make sure that everything that should be considered gets discussed and implemented appropriately. 


In this article, we will outline what data centre commissioning entails and how Oleson is ideally placed to help organisations of any size complete their data centre projects on time and to the specifications they require.

Role of Commissioning in Ensuring Efficient Data Centre Operations

Commissioning verifies and validates the performance of a data centre’s systems and infrastructure. It makes sure that all components of the data centre, such as power, cooling, networking, security systems, and more, are designed to work together seamlessly to meet the specified requirements. One goal of commissioning is identifying and resolving issues early in the project lifecycle. Doing so helps prevent costly delays and project downtime, leading to a successful data centre project that is completed on time and within budget.

Key Steps in the Commissioning Process for Data Centres

A data centre commissioning process involves several necessary steps. It starts with integrating commissioning into the project design from the beginning. Commissioning needs to include careful planning, factory acceptance testing (FAT), visual inspections, site acceptance testing (SAT), system operation verification, and integrated system testing. Each step is carried out to make sure that all systems and components function correctly and work with other systems they need to interact with.

The typical stages of a data centre commissioning project are:

  • Design phase – Commissioning starts with the design phase. This ensures that all operational requirements are considered and incorporated into the design.
  • Planning – Detailed planning lays the groundwork for successful commissioning, identifying critical pathways and processes.
  • Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) – Equipment is tested at the manufacturer’s site to verify functionality and performance before shipment.
  • Visual Inspections – On-site inspections ensure that equipment is installed correctly and conforms to design specifications.
  • Site Acceptance Testing (SAT) – Once the equipment gets installed, it gets tested on-site to confirm that it operates correctly within parameters.
  • System Operation Verification – Comprehensive testing ensures that individual systems work together seamlessly.
  • Integrated System Testing – Final testing validates the data centre’s overall performance, ensuring all systems operate cohesively.

Importance of Planning and Preparation for Successful Commissioning

Successful commissioning heavily relies on planning and preparation. Oleson understands this and emphasises identifying critical pathways and processes early in a project. Our expert consultants work closely with project stakeholders across all suppliers and the organisation building the data centre using a detailed commissioning strategy that aligns with the project’s objectives. This approach reduces the risk of project teams overlooking issues during the commissioning phase, ultimately leading to a more streamlined and successful project.

Technologies and Tools Used in Data Centre Commissioning

In recent years, technological advancements and better interoperability and integration have significantly enhanced and improved data centre commissioning. State-of-the-art tools can be used during commissioning projects to deliver precision, efficiency, and better overall outcomes.


The technology and tool improvements include advanced testing equipment, automated monitoring systems, and comprehensive documentation software. Other techniques that have delivered benefits on these projects are better data analytics and the ability to simulate deployments using advanced simulations and, in some cases, digital twins. Using these tools to deliver insights during the design, implementation, and production commissioning phases of the data centre project helps ensure its success.

Benefits of Effective Commissioning for Data Centre Performance and Reliability

Investing in commissioning yields many benefits for data centre performance and reliability. Thoroughly testing and validating all systems and components through commissioning helps identify and resolve potential issues before they become major problems. This proactive approach minimises the risk of project delays, enhances energy efficiency (increasingly important for an organisation’s message on environmental issues), factors in regulatory compliance, and typically leads to improved reliability when the data centre is in use. Additionally, a well-commissioned data centre is better equipped for future upgrades and expansions, ensuring long-term scalability and adaptability.

Oleson Has the Experience to Deliver Success for Your Data Centre Project

With our extensive experience and expertise in commissioning, Oleson is well-positioned to deliver data centre project success. Our team of consultants possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the complexities of data centre commissioning, ensuring your facility is ready to operate at peak efficiency from day one. By partnering with Oleson, you can benefit from our proven track record of delivering successful outcomes.


Commissioning is a critical part of data centre construction, and not including it leads to future problems. By engaging the services of Oleson, you can make sure that your data centre installation or upgrade is commissioned to the highest standards so that it is efficient, reliable, and delivers long-term benefits. Contact Oleson to learn how we can work together to provide your organisation with a state-of-the-art data centre that will serve your needs for years to come.

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The Booming Irish Life Sciences Sector – Challenges and Opportunities​

Home Blog › The Booming Irish Life Sciences Sector

The Booming Irish Life Sciences Sector - Challenges and Opportunities​

The Irish life sciences sector has experienced a period of rapid growth, and continued investments from major pharmaceutical companies point to this growth continuing in the future. The rapid expansion is also creating challenges, such as skills shortages and competition for qualified staff.

Competing for qualified staff in a heavily invested sector is challenging. Initial recruitment costs increase, as do ongoing costs to retain staff in the vibrant and cash-rich job market. Many life sciences sector companies are looking to bridge their staff recruitment gaps by training existing employees to step up into new roles and using external consultants to bridge gaps while staff transition to more skilled roles.

The process of transitioning from a paper-based environment to a digital one where instructions, productivity tracking, and delivery take place is known as enabling the connected worker. This approach can dramatically improve productivity and staff well-being.

The Thriving Irish Life Sciences Sector​

Ireland has become a centre for investment in the life sciences sector. This investment has led to rapid expansion in areas such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical devices. The growth is not only beneficial for the life sciences community but also for the broader Irish economy, creating new jobs and fostering technological innovation.

In 2023, pharmaceutical giants like Eli Lilly, Astellas, and Bristol Myers Squibb announced plans to build new facilities costing multi-million Euros across the country. This investment trend is expected to continue in 2024 and beyond, fuelled by increasing demand for life science products, Ireland’s pro-business environment, its well-educated workforce, and the commitment to innovation shown across public and private sectors.

The Strain on The Talent Pool​

The growing demand for skilled professionals in the life sciences research and manufacturing sectors in areas such as bioscience, digital engineering, data science, and AI machine learning has strained the available talent pool to its maximum. As the introduction mentions, there is significant competition for suitably skilled professionals to fill jobs.

This competition has driven up salaries and other recruitment costs needed to attract and retain skilled staff. This shortage and the inflated costs needed to hire suitable staff (if you can find them!) pose a serious risk to maintaining the momentum of growth and innovation we’ve seen across the sector.

Oleson - Helping to Bridge the Skills Gap​

Oleson is ideally placed to be a key player in helping life sciences manufacturers tackle the skills gap and recruiting challenges by helping streamline digital production processes, providing industry experts to work on BAU processes or new projects, and upskilling existing workforces. Doing these delivers benefits directly to the business, their existing staff, and the broader Irish economy.

Oleson’s can assist life science businesses in the following ways:

Streamlining production processes – Oleson’s automation and data analytics solutions can optimise manufacturing production processes, reducing manual labour, and increasing efficiency. This frees up staff time and resources to focus on other high-value activities.

Upskilling an existing workforce – Oleson’s expert team can work with members of an existing workforce to help train and upskill them with the knowledge needed to operate modern digital manufacturing processes. This knowledge transfer is demonstrably effective when combined with traditional on-the-job learning activities in producing highly skilled team members from within an existing workforce.

Attracting and retaining talent – Oleson’s approach to integrating advanced technologies and training enables companies to keep their workforce at the forefront of industry developments. By offering a more dynamic and engaging work environment, companies are able to retain staff who may get targeted by a competitor. Plus, it makes the workplace more attractive to others when the need to hire externally arises.

Final Thoughts​

We are sure that any life sciences company that partners with Oleson will reap significant benefits, and that our organisations will establish and maintain a long-term partnership that helps you navigate the recruitment and other challenges in the burgeoning Irish life sciences sector.

Please reach out to us today so we can explore how we can work together to put your life sciences business on a firm footing in the turbulent staff and skills market. We understand the challenges in this sector and are committed to bridging any skills gaps you may be experiencing.

Our collaboration with multiple industry giants shows that we are the go-to partner for life sciences manufacturing in Ireland, and we look forward to using our expertise to satisfy your unique needs.

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The Workforce of Tomorrow: Upskilling Employees for Digital Manufacturing​

Home Blog › The Workforce of Tomorrow

The life sciences manufacturing industry faces challenges such as a constantly changing digital landscape, demand for new pharmaceutical products, and a shortage of skilled manufacturing staff. To be competitive, life sciences manufacturers must upskill their workforces with the latest expertise and knowledge.

The Digitisation of the Life Science Manufacturing Process​

The life sciences manufacturing industry is experiencing a digital revolution as new technologies emerge to automate tasks, improve productivity, and help develop novel products. While this shift presents new opportunities for companies, it also poses challenges. One of which is a scarcity of skilled workers. Many traditional manufacturing skills are getting replaced with new digital manufacturing processes.

The digitisation of manufacturing also creates opportunities for workers who want to upskill and embrace the new era. Thankfully for manufacturers in biosciences (and across the whole manufacturing sector), workers have an appetite for learning new skills, as shown via a 2022 Censuswide survey of over 4,000 workers in the UK manufacturing sector that reported that 80% wanted to upskill.

The rapidly changing landscape also creates opportunities to tap into underrepresented sectors and increase diversity by encouraging more women and minorities to enter the field. But how should companies go about the task of upskilling their workforce? Here are some ideas for delivering an effective training and development strategy.

Partner with External Experts

Life sciences manufacturers can use several different training and development strategies to upskill their existing employees.

Augment Existing Staff with External Specialists

One strategy is to augment existing staff with outside specialists who can lead projects and do knowledge transfer to pass on skills to existing staff as they work together, resulting in benefits for both the company and its employees. Employees can benefit from the expertise of outside specialists with experience and knowledge of life sciences manufacturing. And the company benefits because it allows them to tap into the expertise of experienced specialists without hiring them full-time.

Use Contractors when Needed

Another strategy is to hire external specialists when needed as contractors for as long as required. The contractors plug knowledge gaps in the workforce. For bespoke manufacturing processes that a company may not need to do frequently, it might be more cost-effective to use external specialists to complete the work required without requiring them to pass on their knowledge. This decreases the time and cost of hiring external specialists for specific narrow requirements.

Oleson Have the Experts on Digital Manufacturing You Need​

Our team of manufacturing Automation and Information Technology (AIT) consultants have decades of experience working on projects in life science manufacturing organisations. We can assist life science manufacturers in bridging current skill gaps and with the upskilling of existing workforces.

Our experience is available for you to use to develop digital manufacturing methods and systems to support your team in advancing projects rapidly whilst modernising your workforce. We are a technology strategy & transformation practice uniquely focused on IT/OT systems in manufacturing operations with particular strength in regulated life sciences manufacturing. You will already have trusted control system and application vendors. We bring to the table domain knowledge expertise and a whole system view and understanding of the complex relationships between:

  • Manufacturing operations
  • Business continuity
  • IT infrastructure
  • Compliance & change control
  • System lifecycle planning

We have processes to ensure IT/OT systems drive your business needs directly. We are ready to provide strategic advice or specific implementation services. To deliver successful projects, you can use our capabilities selectively to augment the capabilities of your project delivery team. We have extensive experience in complex capital projects within life science manufacturing operations and the digital modernisation of manufacturing processes.

Use Traditional Training Approaches

Traditional training methods still have a place in upskilling staff. Everyone is unique and will respond to some training approaches better than others. Some conventional approaches include:

  • In-house instructor-led training on new digital manufacturing processes.
  • Availability of online courses and tutorials on relevant topics.
  • Opportunities to attend industry conferences and workshops.

Fostering and creating a culture of continuous learning using multiple methods will help deliver a constantly upskilling workforce to meet the challenges of an ever-changing life science manufacturing landscape.

A Blended Approach to Upskilling​

Life sciences manufacturers can adopt a blended approach that combines various strategies to prepare their employees for the future. This approach involves using internal and external resources and formal and informal training methods. By doing this, companies can enhance their workforces and remain competitive while staff learn new skills.


Upskilling staff from the existing workforce rather than trying to hire in the highly competitive life sciences job market makes financial and cultural sense. It’s less expensive to reskill existing staff to be more productive using digital manufacturing techniques, and as these people are already employed, you know how they will fit into your organisation’s culture.

Oleson can help you upskill your existing staff using the methods discussed above. Contact us to discuss transforming your workforce into a modern digital manufacturing power team.

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Harnessing Data Power – OSI PI Resources for Real-time Monitoring Predictive Maintenance and Advanced Analytics

Home Blog › Harnessing Data Power

Businesses must consistently innovate to enhance and streamline their operations to remain competitive. This innovation should be data-driven, using information from existing processes and machinery. However, pinpointing areas for improvement can be difficult when relevant data is spread across incompatible systems and is stored in multiple formats.

At Oleson, we specialise in the design, deployment, and ongoing support of IT & OT (Operational Technology) systems in manufacturing and the gathering, analysing, and harnessing of the data generated by equipment and IT & OT control systems for business improvement.

We are a leading supplier of automation engineers who specialise in developing robust and scalable automation architectures tailored to each organisation’s specific requirements. Our expert team can augment existing production automation capabilities with new solutions to help modernise manufacturing processes and workflows. Whether it’s PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) programming, HMI (Human Machine Interface) design, network configuration, or control system optimisation, the Oleson team has you covered for improvements and ongoing predictive maintenance monitoring.

We have expertise with advanced analytic models and using them to solve today’s ever-increasing business challenges. Our Pi historian experience allows us to use various tools to bring strategic advancements to your business. Whether you want to look at increasing production yields, reducing energy consumption, or solving a point solution that your digitisation team has highlighted, we can help.

Overview of a Typical Data System

In the traditional method, there were manual processes of data in every organization. That was solely dependent on providers. Hence it was time-consuming, labour intensive, poor quality data, and not dynamic. Hence, there was always a challenge to analyse the entire set of data and make the right decision for the business. However, after introducing PI (Plant Information), the new process is fully automatic with higher-quality data. Hence, saves time. Then the business views the final data in a report in power bi/Tableau/Tibco Spotfire and other BI tools in their own mobile, pager, computer, and other smart devices they are interested in on a daily basis. This application can efficiently record data from process control systems (ex. Scada, DCS, PLC) into a compressed time series database. PI system is heavily used in various industries, such as Food & Beverage, Oil & gas, Pharma & Life Sciences, Power Generation, Mining, metals & materials, Facilities & Infrastructure, Chemicals, Water, Transportation, and Transmission & Distribution.

Typical Architecture of a PI System​

OSI PI has been in use and evolving for over four decades and delivers a premier operations infrastructure solution. Its features include:

  • It collects the data from multiple sources (Database (Oracle/SQL), process control systems (Scada, DCS, PLC etc.), and other 3rd party systems via many default interfaces. It then defines context for the data – Equipment, Process Calculations/Analytics – layers of analytics – simple/advanced in the tool (AF – Asset Framework).
  • It visualizes all the events, notify and take immediate action as and when needed.
  • PI system data is also being consumed by other systems like SAP (to create a work order in ‘Asset management System’ via SAP HANA database), ArcGIS system to visualize data in graphical mode (scatter plot), and other business intelligence systems (Azure data lake, oracle/sql server flat files, Hadoop system and so for data scientists to prepare prediction models.

The main components of the PI system:

  1. PI interface Node (The interfaces are defined to extract the available data from the data source(s))
  2. PI Data Archive Server (heart of the PI system, where all the source data (snapshot and archive) extracted via interface resides on this server.
  3. PI AF (Asset Framework) acts as a repository database of all PI Points and assets.
  4. PI Vision server is a thin client visualization tool to display all the tags and AF assets in graphical mode.

Thus, two services can be proposed:

  1. performance monitoring for each asset at the site (Enhancing plant efficiency, minimizing forced outage, and optimising maintenance plan)
  2. Early fault detection (anticipate the potential equipment faults)

It also performs condition-based maintenance (CBM), predictive/reactive maintenance and estimates remaining usage of life (RUL) of the assets. In older days, every customer schedule a call periodically with 3rd party service engineers for maintenance, which implies the customer spends money unnecessarily even though all the assets are in good conditions and/or there may be some which have never been used on day-to-day operation. In order to avoid that situation to save money, PI system checks the condition of assets periodically and computes the circumstances by using the inputs, such as installation date, efficiency and run hours per day. Then it calculates how much percentage the asset has been used thus far and how many extra days it can run without having any issue, or the asset has already been damaged and it needs to be replaced or repaired immediately. It notifies the owner appropriately and create a ticket for the service engineer for any kind of maintenance needed for individual assets. A report is generated subsequently for the management to view.

With the OSI PI System, businesses can transition from complexity to simplicity, and from asset and process intelligence to operational intelligence. The solution is scalable and uses an open data infrastructure that enables real-time decision-making, changing operational data into actionable insights for business transformation.

OSI PI enables organisations to gain operational intelligence from their data via a four-stage process.

  1. Capture – PI system bridges the OT and IT gap. It captures real-time sensor-based events at different time periods from the control systems via defined interfaces on the Pi server. It stores those frequency data on the PI archive server.
  2. Search & Analyse – Upon collection of data from multiple data sources, in Asset Framework (AF) tool PI engineers create calculations and save the output calculation into a PI tag. At the same time an event frame can also be generated if there is an unexpected activity spotted for the asset and a notification will be sent via email or mobile to the technician or end-user for immediate attention in order to avoid production loss at any given time.
  3. Visualise – To present the real-time data in a graphical mode, PI vision tool is used extensively to plot graphs in a different fashion (Trends, XY plot, Table and so on). The same data can also be exhibited in Excel, and BI tools (PowerBI, Tableau, Tibco Spotfire) by the management during business and outside business hours.
  4. Share – The pi system can be shared with external vendors, customers, and other 3rd party companies by means of outbound interface(s) to another application like SAP, Azure data lake, Oracle, Hadoop, and to many other systems via PI Integrators. The data is being consumed for triggering a work order by 3rd party system (s) if needed to work at the site in person and also it harnesses preparing the prediction models by data scientists.

Gain Operational Intelligence

PI system provides production and economic benefits in a great deal. This process is ongoing and continually reveals opportunities such as:

  • Optimising processes
  • Elevating quality
  • Increasing asset health and uptime
  • Improving energy efficiency
  • Managing risk and regulatory compliance
  • Advancing safety performance
  • Early warning of a bad equipment condition
  • Plant performance improvement
  • Maintenance cost reduction

You can read more about how the OSI PI System works from a technical perspective via the https://resources.osisoft.com/pi-system/ website.

Selected Case Studies of the OSI PI System in Action

OSIsoft’s PI System has helped multiple organisations to reduce costs, increase production capacity, extend equipment life, meet environmental targets, and generate new revenue streams. These success stories demonstrate the power of having timely and accurate data accessible to the right individuals, leading to innovation and value creation. To see how industry leaders in sectors like oil & gas, power, mining, manufacturing, and others are utilising the OSI PI System to revolutionise their operations, visit our collection of customer stories.

Here are a few abridged OSI PI System case stories and some customer testimonials. Many more are available on the website linked above.

Customer Stories

UC Davis – Carbon Neutral By 2025: UC Davis Taps into the Transformative Power of Data.

The University of California set an ambitious target for UC Davis in 2013 – to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from the campus’s building and vehicle fleet by 2025. Being the first major university to pledge carbon neutrality, UC Davis had to clear a high bar, given its vast campus comprising over 1,000 buildings and a total of 11.3 million square feet. The university took initial steps towards carbon neutrality by retrofitting large plants and buildings to operate more efficiently. However, to identify further opportunities for resource optimisation, UC Davis turned to the OSI PI System for data-driven solutions after exhausting the obvious projects.

“Getting to our 2025 goal, we need to go deeper, and that increasingly requires things like user engagement, campus engagement, optimisation, and really in the last five years, the use of real-time data,” said David Trombly, engineering supervisor at UC Davis. “PI has really expanded and become increasingly integral to our operations and goals.”

Australian Gas Light (AGL) – The Value of Data Across the Enterprise.

AGL, the oldest and largest power producer in Australia, has experienced significant growth over the years, going from 300 MW in 2005 to 10,000 MW in 2017, with an increased focus on incorporating renewable energy sources like wind and solar. However, during their expansion in 2012, the company faced the challenge of being “data blind,” as they had to rely on printouts and prepared reports in the event of an issue, instead of real-time data. They recognised the need for a more efficient data collection system that would enable access to information by any employee across their assets.

In 2012, AGL signed a deal with OSIsoft and set up an Operational Diagnostics Centre to analyse data from their PI System deployment. Additionally, AGL gave their employees access to PI Vision, an efficient dashboarding tool that helped them visualise data. Thanks to this, one engineer was able to compare the performance of various solar assets, while another user monitored generator temperatures. Even non-technical employees were able to create condition-based monitoring systems for hydro dams located 700 kilometres away.

Between 2015 and 2017, AGL successfully saved AUD$ 18.7 million (€11.3 million). Additionally, they detected an anomaly in a hydrogen station that could have resulted in a disastrous fire causing a shutdown of 12-14 weeks and incurring a repair cost of over AUD $50 million (€30 million). Presently, AGL is exploring new horizons by piloting a wind yield optimisation system and thermal performance optimisation system as part of their continued PI Systems backed transformation.


“OSIsoft is considered core to running our refinery…The PI System is the go-to place if you want information about how the plant is operating.”

  1. E. , Director of Systems Engineering, P.E. , Ergon Refining, Inc.

“IT Monitor saved us $30,000 in the first month by accurately pinpointing a network bottleneck”.

D.R. , Westar Energy, Inc.

“The PI System has become such an important part of our business; I can’t imagine operating our manufacturing facility without it. ”

J.C. , Vice President , Appleton Coated, LLC

Conclusion ​

There are significant operational and financial benefits to be gained from the efficient gathering, analysis, and presentation of data from manufacturing and other infrastructure operations. The OSI PI System is ideal for delivering all three stages of this business process, and deploying it can boost productivity and profitability. Oleson engineers can work with your team to design and deploy an OSI PI System deployment that can adapt as your needs change. To get help with short-term projects or long-term partnerships, Oleson is here to help.

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Data-Driven Strategies in Manufacturing – The Connected Worker Forum​

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Data-Driven Strategies in Manufacturing - The Connected Worker Forum​

The way people work is being transformed by digitisation, especially in manufacturing and factory floor settings, where the connected worker is becoming increasingly prevalent. By digitising work instructions, the reliance on physical paper gets removed, and electronic audit trails and easily searched records are created.

The process of transitioning from a paper-based environment to a digital one where instructions, productivity tracking, and delivery take place is known as enabling the connected worker. This approach can dramatically improve productivity and staff well-being.

What is a Connected Worker?​

Connected (or augmented) workers use technology to bridge the divide between the physical and digital worlds. This connection enables them to carry out their work efficiently, communicate with others, and make informed decisions based on current information about their tasks and location.

Deloitte defines the term as:

“A connected worker is any person whose working life is changing due to digital and other technologies.”

The application of connected worker techniques is not limited to any particular industry but is applicable to field operations, service industries, pharmaceutical production, and manufacturing shop floors. In the context of smart factories and connected workers, Gartner uses this definition:

“The connected factory worker concept is a new approach to industrial efficiency. It’s as much a technology construct that changes how factory workers access information and knowledge to do their jobs differently, as it is a change management exercise that is rooted in workforce development, behavioural shifts and integrated continuous improvement.”

By implementing connected worker operations, each factory floor or frontline worker is equipped with the necessary tools, information, and authority to complete tasks efficiently and make prompt decisions to ensure maximum productivity.


Connected worker solutions are transforming manufacturing and other business sectors. Join us and our industry partners to gain valuable insights and contribute to an ongoing conversation that will shape the future of connected workers and smart shop floor solutions.

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The Rise of Ireland’s Life Sciences: A New Era of Innovation​

Home Blog › The Rise of Ireland’s Life Sciences

Ireland’s life sciences sector is currently experiencing a period of growth and innovation, despite concerns about geopolitical and economic headwinds. According to the Irish Bioindustry Association (IBIA), the sector employs over 48,000 people and generates revenue of €22.5 billion per year. Additionally, a report by IDA Ireland shows that the life sciences sector has attracted €4.4 billion in foreign direct investment between 2015 and 2019, with multinational companies such as Pfizer, GSK, and Merck establishing significant operations in the country.

The Skills Gap Challenge​

However, as the sector continues to grow, there is a growing need to attract and retain skilled workers in order to maintain this momentum. According to a report by the IBIA, the skills gap is one of the main challenges facing the sector, with a shortage of skilled workers in areas such as biotechnology, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals. The IBIA estimates that the sector will require an additional 10,000 skilled workers by 2020 to meet the demand.

Addressing the Skills Gap ​

One solution that has been proposed to address this skills gap is the use of re-skilling and apprenticeship programs. These programs can help to provide workers with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their jobs effectively in the knowledge economy. For example, the Irish government’s Apprenticeship Council has launched a program that aims to provide 3,000 apprenticeships in the life sciences sector by 2020. However, these programs may not always be the most effective solution as they can be costly and time-consuming.

Digitising of Manufacturing Processes​

Another approach that has been suggested is the digitisation of manufacturing processes. This can help to increase efficiency and productivity, while also reducing the need for manual labour. According to a report by Deloitte, digital technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have the potential to increase productivity in the manufacturing sector by up to 30%. Gartner also suggests that by 2022, 40% of industrial manufacturers will use Industry 4.0 digital twin technologies to optimise industrial operations.

The Connected Worker Concept​

However, digitisation alone may not be sufficient to address the skills gap. Instead, a more holistic approach is needed that focuses on empowering and collaborating with workers. This is where the concept of the “connected worker” comes in. The connected worker is one who is equipped with the necessary technology and tools to perform their job effectively, while also being able to collaborate with other team members and access real-time data and information. The connected worker concept is a strategic approach that can help to solve the skills gap problem from within rather than outwardly looking for solutions.

Real-world Examples​

One example of a company that has successfully implemented this approach is Danone. The company has implemented a digital platform that allows its workers to access real-time data and collaborate with other team members. As a result, the company has been able to increase productivity by 20% and has also been able to attract and retain skilled workers. Other companies such as Siemens, GE, and Honeywell have also implemented similar programs with great success.


In conclusion, the skills gap is a significant challenge facing the life sciences sector in Ireland, and it is important for companies to investigate and implement solutions to ensure the continued success of the sector. Re-skilling and apprenticeship programs can provide a short-term solution, but a more holistic approach is needed that focuses on digitising manufacturing processes and empowering and collaborating with workers. The connected worker concept is a good example of this approach and it has been successfully implemented by companies such as Danone. By adopting this approach, companies can help to attract and retain the skilled workforce they need to continue to innovate and grow in the knowledge economy.

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Golden Period of Innovation in Ireland’s Life Sciences Sector​

Home Blog › Golden Period of Innovation in Ireland’s Life Sciences Sector​

The pharmaceutical and biotech sectors have recently seen a golden period with significant growth. This is as true in Ireland as it is globally, and the industry here is responsible for over 50,000 highly skilled jobs that deliver €45 billion in annual exports.

Investment in the sector has come from external investment into Ireland by multinationals (25 of the largest biotech and pharma companies have extensive Irish operations) alongside national investment projects from Irish organisations and Government. This investment is ongoing, as shown by Pfizer’s €1 billion investment at its site near Dublin, plus multi-million Euro investments by others such as Merck in Cork, Boston Scientific in Galway, and many other businesses across the island.

Many of these new investments have the dual goals of increasing productivity and simultaneously improving environmental outcomes by producing fewer waste products and carbon emissions. These are essential parts of Horizon Europe and Ireland’s Impact 2030 RD&I agenda.

The Skilled Staff Problem​

The growth and continued investment in the pharma and biotech sectors have resulted in a shortage of skilled staff. This is true globally and in Ireland. Research by Enterprise Ireland reported that 26% of Irish companies working in the industry cited skills and talent shortages as the biggest challenge to their businesses.

If Ireland wants to stay at the forefront of this critical sector, we will need to ensure we have the talented people required and create jobs they want to do. As outlined in the Technology Foresight Ireland: Report of the Health and Life Sciences Panel report (PDF download link):

“Ireland will need to invest even further in its greatest asset, that is, its emerging population of young and well-educated people, if it is to maximise the benefits from knowledge-based industries in the coming decades.”

Addressing the Skills Gap

Ensuring that there is a supply of appropriately skilled people to fill the jobs that will be available in the biotech sector will require action on multiple fronts. There will need to be investments in third-level degree courses that give our young people the knowledge and skills required by this 21st-century industry. Skills that cover biotechnology, molecular biology, nanotechnology, computing subjects such as machine learning and programming, and details of modern manufacturing using techniques from Industry 4.0 and Pharma 4.0.

A big part of plugging the skills gap will be using productivity advantages and advanced smart manufacturing techniques from Industry 4.0, especially Pharma 4.0. The latter is the focus of Oleson, and I believe it will play a significant part in addressing the lack of skilled people in the sector by allowing higher productivity returns from fewer people using advanced manufacturing processes.

For anyone who isn’t aware of the Pharma 4.0 term, here is a summary. It is an industry-wide effort by Pharma research labs and manufacturers to create a roadmap to adopt Industry 4.0 manufacturing best practices (see ref 1 for a Deloitte Insights explainer on Industry 4.0).

The Pharma 4.0 initiative is managed by the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) (ref 2.) Their Pharma 4.0 mission statement begins with the following:

“The aim is to provide practical guidance, embedding regulatory best practices, to accelerate Pharma 4.0™ transformations. The objective is to enable organisations involved in the pharmaceutical product lifecycle to leverage the full potential of digitalisation to provide faster therapeutic innovations and improved production processes for the benefit of patients.”

By adopting advanced manufacturing practices, organisations can increase their productivity with fewer skilled staff needed to keep factories operating around the clock. These advanced techniques turn staff into connected workers who operate more efficiently in a connected factory. Gartner defines the connected factory and worker as follows (ref 3):

“The connected factory worker concept is a new approach to industrial efficiency. It’s as much a technology construct that changes how factory workers access information and knowledge to do their jobs differently, as it is a change management exercise that is rooted in workforce development, behavioural shifts and integrated continuous improvement.”

In Oleson, we have extensive knowledge and partnerships with organisations operating across the pharma sector. In conjunction with our connected worker industry partners in 4Industry and ServiceNow, our consultants can work with pharma labs and manufacturers to design and deliver intelligent factory solutions and connected worker technologies that conform to Industry 4.0 and Pharma 4.0 best practices. We can partner with your pharma or other biotech sector manufacturing teams to deliver connected worker benefits that increase staff productivity without adding additional workload and pressure to the individuals on the factory floor.


The success of the Irish pharma sector has been an engine for growth for the whole Irish economy and across the broader EU. To continue to have this engine of innovation and success compete with challenges from the USA, Asia, and emerging regions will require adopting smarter working practices that allow our industry to weather the global shortage of skilled staff. I’m confident we can do this.


  1. Deloitte Insights: Forces of change: Industry 4.0. –


  1. ISPE: Pharma 4.0 – https://ispe.org/initiatives/pharma-4.0
  1. Gartner Research: Innovation Insight for the Connected Factory Worker – https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/4000352

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Eliminating Paper from your Shop Floor with the Connected Worker!​​

Home Blog › Eliminating Paper from your Shop Floor with the Connected Worker!​

Eliminating Paper from your Shop Floor with the Connected Worker!​

Digitisation has changed the modern world and how we interact with it. Smartphones and other intelligent wearables like watches and earbuds track our activity and deliver location and context-based information. Many people are accustomed to using location-aware to-do lists that display an alert on their smartphone when they are near the location where they can complete a task. Smart shopping lists are finally here! Similarly, most drivers now use GPS without thinking about the technological layers that have made it universal. This increased use and reliance on technology outside the workplace has highlighted a technical gulf for many workers working on a factory shop floor or in field service industry roles.

This disparity is an opportunity for many organisations. Familiarity with consumer-level technologies allows businesses to introduce systems based on similar technology into shop floor operations or other business functions. This digitisation of working practices to deliver enhanced digital tools and workflows across businesses got boosted by the safety requirements for workers during the pandemic (don’t worry, this is not another pandemic article). Providing information and work instructions in digital form facilitated the social distancing and other safety measures we all followed.

At the same time, it also reduced reliance on paper workflows and audit trails. This is a huge benefit in itself, but it also opens up the prospect of radical digital transformation that delivers enhanced productivity and new flexible working arrangements.

Moving from paper to a working environment where instructions, productivity tracking, and delivery happen digitally is known as enabling the connected worker. Adopting the connected worker methodology can greatly increase productivity and staff morale, including in the pharmaceutical sector by adopting Industry 4, smart factories, and connected worker practices under the umbrella of Pharma 4.0.

The Connected Worker in a Connected Factory

Connected (or augmented) workers use technology to bridge the divide between the physical and digital worlds. This connection allows them to do their work, interact with others, and make decisions using current and specific information about the task they need to perform and at the location they need to accomplish it. Deloitte defines the term as:

“A connected worker is any person whose working life is changing due to digital and other technologies.” (See ref 1.)

Connected worker techniques can be used for field operations, in service industries, and also on production & manufacturing shop floors. In the context of smart factories and connected workers, Gartner uses this definition (ref 2):

“The connected factory worker concept is a new approach to industrial efficiency. It’s as much a technology construct that changes how factory workers access information and knowledge to do their jobs differently, as it is a change management exercise that is rooted in workforce development, behavioural shifts, and integrated continuous improvement.”

Implementing connected worker operations provides each factory floor or frontline worker with the tools, information, and authority to deliver the tasks they need to get done and make faster decisions to ensure that productivity gets maximised. For a connected factory worker Gartner highlights five areas where the staff members benefit from connected working (ref 2):

  • Standard work – Digital access to standard operating procedures (SOPs), input into SOP creation and management, and access to guided digital workflows. Delivering the elimination of paper from the shop floor!
  • Collaboration – Digital access to supervisors and colleagues. Delivers on-site, remote, and hybrid assistance and guidance for any issues that arise. Enables group-based troubleshooting between staff via digital communication. The capture of the discussions, recommendations, and outcomes (feeding into continuous improvement).
  • Continuous improvement – Improved reporting and KPI management. Better pre-shift meetings, handovers, and delivery of Gemba principles – a Japanese term for “actual place,” used to highlight the place on a shop floor where important work occurs.
  • Quality and compliance – Faster preventive measures and improved site safety. Digital audits and inspections of factory equipment and plant. Improved incident management and reporting – another input into continuous improvement.
  • Training – Digital delivery of standard training materials and certification exam delivery and tracking. Ongoing continuous knowledge transfer from all staff (more continuous improvement!). Access to on-demand knowledge whenever and wherever it’s needed.

Pharma 4.0​

In Oleson, we have a focus on the pharmaceutical sector. As an industry, Pharma research labs and manufacturers have seen the benefits of Industry 4 techniques and have formed an industry group to create a roadmap to introduce Industry 4.0 Smart Factory techniques to the pharmaceutical industry – Pharma 4.0. This gets managed under the auspices of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) (ref 3.)

The Pharma 4.0 mission statement begins:

“The aim is to provide practical guidance, embedding regulatory best practices, to accelerate Pharma 4.0™ transformations. The objective is to enable organisations involved in the pharmaceutical product lifecycle to leverage the full potential of digitalisation to provide faster therapeutic innovations and improved production processes for the benefit of patients.”

We have extensive knowledge and partnerships with organisations operating across the Pharma sector. In conjunction with our connected worker industry partners in 4Industry and ServiceNow, our consultants can work with pharma labs and manufacturers to design and deliver smart factory solutions and connected worker technologies. And in doing so, we can partner with your Pharma or other sector manufacturing teams to deliver the connected worker benefits outlined above and in the Gartner research note.

Adoption and Staff Trust are Key

Like all technology improvement projects, adopting connected worker practices and solutions will only succeed if the staff are active participants in the tools’ design, delivery, and ongoing evolution. Most staff will want any solution that is selected to work well and not be a hindrance to them.

The human factor is just as important as technology, and ensuring that staff are engaged in the process will lead to satisfied workers who champion the new way of working. This will make success and associated productivity gains easier to achieve. Plus, it’ll make it easier to introduce additional changes in the future to further streamline production workflows and the factory floor.


Adopting the connected factory worker concept is vital to stay competitive in the modern high-tech and scientific manufacturing sectors. Oleson can partner with your organisation to ensure you avoid the common pitfalls that others have made by bringing our extensive industry experience to the table for your modernisation projects.

Each company is unique, and we will partner with you to deliver what you need today and into the future. Contact us to discuss your needs.



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