Increasing operational efficiency with contract packaging services

Jon Lawson

Historically, all elements of a production cycle were managed by a single organisation, from prototype testing right through to order fulfilment. However, with production costs increasing and profit margins becoming ever tighter, many companies look to outsource some areas of the process.

Here, Dale Pittock, sales director at pharmacy consumables supplier Valley Northern, looks at the benefits of using contract packaging services across the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing plants across the board are constantly changing to meet the varying pressures presented by the industry. Within the healthcare sector, these challenges, including dependence on complicated synthetic chemistry, are multiplied by the additional regulations and standards, such as the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), that a plant must meet to ensure safety and sterility.
New technologies

Smart manufacturing, the increased connectivity between equipment within and across a plant, is a growing trend across sectors. Enabling plant managers to harness the power of data and use analytics to better run a manufacturing line or whole facility, smart plants are more energy efficient, while producing higher quality more consistent products.
Despite these benefits, installing and configuring these new systems can be costly and time intensive. Most manufacturers are choosing to undertake these improvements gradually to spread costs while reaping the benefits.
Using a contract packager is one way to take advantage of smart factory benefits, including reliability and lower costs per unit, without incurring these increased, up front, charges.
Contract packagers rely on suppliers of not only pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices, but also pharmacy packaging providers such as Valley Northern. It’s crucial that these three parties work closely together to avoid costly downtime and ensure crucial medication is available.

Similarly, the threat of counterfeit medication is a major challenge to the pharmaceutical industry. The European Commission is countering this threat by bringing in the updated Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), the final phase of which will come into effect in February 2019.
The FMD requires a system to track and record legitimate product throughout the supply chain. This data can be used to serialise each pack with an individual, random number that can be authenticated before shipping.
While this tightened regulation is wonderful for patient safety, it does pose challenges to pharmaceutical manufacturers. There’s an additional phase to add to the packaging process, which will necessitate changes to production lines alongside the dramatically increased data management burden.
Each of these changes will require an investment, from sensors that can also be used to collect data for analysis, to upgraded IT functionality to meet the data capture and sharing requirements of FMD.
For an individual manufacturer, this could pose a massive capital investment. However, if they choose to outsource to a specialised contractor who is already set up with a smart factory and local and cloud networks, they could be spared this particular financial hit.
Innovative formats

Since the days of tinted glass bottles to signify medicine or poison, pharmaceutical packaging has been designed for safety and cleanliness. Technological developments over the years have led to a wealth of changes, both in terms of packaging and in the pharmaceuticals contained within.
In recent years, medical technology has made some amazing advances. We’ve seen the development of several new drug delivery methods that are of great benefit to patients, such as auto-administered biologicals and oral thin-film dissolvable medication.
Each new type of drug developed has new packaging, labelling, storage and shipping demands. These demands are perhaps best met by contract packagers, who are able to invest in the technology required to safely manufacture and meet these demands. 
Pharmaceutical manufacturers face a range of challenges each day, from keeping up with trends in pharmaceutical manufacturing to ensuring they are operating in the most efficient way. Outsourcing to contract packers means manufacturers can benefit from a range of expertise and technology to meet customer demands and ensuring the best value end user experience without compromising safety or traceability.

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