Dispensing data - automatically

AstraZeneca assures product quality, maximizes production efficiency

When AstraZeneca set out to make the manufacturing process for its Turbuhaler product more cost-effective and to minimize variations, the global pharmaceutical manufacturer faced a major challenge: building a solution with enough capacity to handle all of the production-related data that was stored in so many unique systems. The company sought a rational way to merge and process the data as well as to eliminate the time-consuming manual process of analyzing production for obstacles, errors and irregularities.

AstraZeneca asked SAS to produce a prototype of a business intelligence solution with the capacity to store, analyze and generate reports for a large number of different user groups. The goal was to increase yield, improve quality, minimize variations and save time.

Instead of using our time to collect the data, we can focus on analyzing it.

Eva Nossborn
Process Engineering

Using SAS, AstraZeneca – which operates 26 plants in 18 countries – achieved quality-assured, cost-efficient Turbuhaler production by automating its vast data management and analytics efforts.

A major part of sales

Turbuhaler, one of AstraZeneca's biggest successes ever, launched more than 20 years ago. The device both measures and dispenses medicine – such as Symbicort and Pulmicort – that is inhaled and delivered to the lungs to treat asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease. Turbuhaler includes a counter that indicates the number of remaining doses and is easy to carry, making it simple for patients to administer the medicine themselves.

Products based on Turbuhaler are among AstraZeneca's most important, and they account for a major part of the total sales within the respiratory and inflammation therapy area.

Turbuhaler's advanced manufacturing process is divided into a number of process steps, each with many factors that affect product quality. The quantity of data produced in the manufacturing process is both complex and extensive.

Millions of rows

Eva Nossborn is a process engineer at AstraZeneca and a daily user of the SAS solution. "We had strict requirements for the SAS solution. Pure production data combined with supportive data sources, e.g., planning systems and quality systems, generate tables with enormous amounts of data. There are approximately 1,000 parameters in the system. The daily rate for an individual table was recently about 170 million rows, and the amount grows by 1.5 million rows every week."

AstraZeneca chose SAS after testing several suppliers. SAS produced a prototype, which structured the information, defined the user groups and determined the necessary security levels for different groups. The prototype covered all the steps in the production processes for both the drug and the Turbuhaler.

"SAS demonstrated enormous commitment during the pilot study, and we were able to identify a lot of additional benefits with SAS," says Henrik Åkerblom, a process engineer and one of those responsible for the implementation of the SAS solution. "They helped us understand the system's many possibilities."

"SAS works very well with the type of data we work with. Instead of using our time to collect the data, we can focus on analyzing it," stresses Nossborn.

High quality requirements, many users

The most time-consuming aspect of the project was building a system to collect all of the data in one database and ensuring that everything met the high standards demanded within the pharmaceutical industry.

Between 50 and 100 employees create or receive the reports from the system. The primary users are the process engineers, who are responsible for following up on daily production. They receive prepared reports and are also able to develop their own special reports. Other users include operators, statisticians, analysts and those responsible for quality assurance, as well as other managers within the company.

The primary advantage with SAS is the time saved. But saving time was only part of the original motive behind the system; streamlining production with one comprehensive plan was equally important.

"We work continuously to increase productivity," says Åkerblom. "This applies to increasing utilization level during production and increasing the yield and quality of the products. Using SAS, we have been able to minimize the variations in the production process and expand the contents of the analyses performed."

AstraZeneca plans to extend the SAS solution to other products and product groups.

"Originally, the system only managed Symbicort Turbuhaler, but now several other products in the same family which are produced in AstraZeneca's Swedish operations have been included under the system," says Åkerblom, "and we plan to use the same system for completely different product groups."


Quickly, easily analyze large amounts of production, manufacturing data to lower production costs and reduce manufacturing variations.


SAS® Enterprise BI Server


  • Automatic access to the same quality-assured data throughout the process for analysis, evaluation and decision making.
  • Unlimited possibilities for sharing knowledge.
  • Automated data management for each production batch, allowing for quick analysis throughout the manufacturing process.
The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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