Money talks: Savings from nested packaging and flexible filling

Money talks: Cost savings through flexible filling and nested packaging

October 29, 2014 - News

In the latest issue of European Pharmaceutical Manufacturer, Gregor Deutschle of Schott Pharmaceutical Systems and John Harmer of Vanrx Pharmasystems explore why flexible filling lines and nested packaging are the front lines of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ search for cost savings.

Why flexible filling lines and nested packaging are the front lines of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ search for cost savings, by John Harmer, Vanrx Pharmasystems and Gregor Deutschle, Schott Pharmaceutical Systems

Pharmaceutical manufacturers today face a changing industry landscape. Advanced regulatory issues and new trends in medicine, such as personalised treatments plus the rise of highly sensitive biopharmaceuticals, are shifting needs within the pharmaceutical industry. Manufacturers are focussing on producing smaller batch sizes efficiently and many companies are turning their eyes toward filling line technology and filling line concepts. A flexible and fully automated filling line combined with nested packaging can accelerate production, minimise breakage, and lower total cost of ownership. For this reason, ready-to-use syringes have long been a staple of the pharmaceutical industry. These syringes are pre-sterilised and packed in nests and tubs to simplify the filling process by relieving pharmaceutical manufacturers from pretreating the syringe and installing sterilisation machinery.

Now manufacturers of pharmaceutical packaging and filling lines are applying these same efficiencies to other pharmaceutical packaging formats, such as vials. While pharmaceutical manufacturers could once support multiple filling lines to accommodate various drugs and packaging, it’s no longer efficient to change machine parts for different vial sizes or go to excessive time and money installing new filling line equipment. Manufacturers are seeking out packaging that is ready to fill and filled in an inherently adaptable system capable of fitting any packaging for any drug.

This new imperative for flexibility in pharmaceutical packaging and filling lines is already being realised as new systems offer manufacturers a more efficient means of delivering drugs to market, accelerating the filling process, reducing breakage, and lowering total cost of ownership. This evolution is being driven by the following goals:

1. Ready-to-use packaging. When syringes and vials arrive pre-sterilised, manufacturers can eliminate the sterilisation processes — and the equipment needed to carry them out. Also, by reducing the number of machines, manufacturers consume less energy, save money on utility bills, and increase overall filling speeds and volumes.

2. A single standard. The nest-and-tub configuration developed for ready-to-use syringes offered an opportunity for other packaging, including vials. By using the same nest-and-tub format for multiple types of packaging, manufacturers can reduce the number of filling lines and equipment changes needed to produce various drugs, cutting the total cost of machinery and energy. Pursuing a single, standard method of filling both syringes and vials allows manufacturers to maximise the use of each filling line.

3. Full automation. Automation fills packaging more efficiently and reduces errors. For example, redesigning the stopper and closure portion of the filling line process could enable pre-sanitised closures to be applied to an entire nest of vials at the same time, speeding the closure process as well as saving companies from purchasing expensive closure sanitisation equipment. By reducing the total number of manual tasks, automation can cut overall energy costs to 25% of standard filling lines.

4. Inherent flexibility. Besides developing nests and tubs that enable manufacturers to fill drug packaging on a single filling line, nests that can fit different types and sizes of packaging avoid delays in production and reduce costs. Nests that grip vials by the neck, for example, can accommodate even non-ISO vials with different diameters, allowing manufacturers to switch the filling line to a different size vial without having to purchase new filling lines or change parts to accommodate a new drug or larger volume container.

5. A better process. One unnecessary complication in filling lines is damage to packaging through glass-to-glass contact. Nests that secure vials by the neck can prevent them from touching one another, reducing the chance of scratches or defects. These optimised nests can keep vials freely accessible on the bottom, allowing vials to undergo lyophilization with shelf-to-glass contact, improving conduction and eliminating the complexity of top-stem contact plates.

Pharmaceutical companies are seeking ways to increase efficiency and reduce operational costs. Pharmaceutical packaging and filling line manufacturers are answering the call by reimagining filling line solutions. It is imperative, however, that pharmaceutical packaging and filling line manufacturers work closely together to ensure efficient filling line processes. Vanrx and Schott have teamed up to adapt packaging concepts for filling technology needs to efficiently deliver drugs to market. The adaptiQ nest-and-tub system for ready-to-use vials combined with Vanrx’s SA25 aseptic filling workcell is one example of how these unions benefit pharmaceutical manufacturers by providing them with an integrated, highly efficient filling process.

As manufacturers shift toward ready-to-use packaging, opportunities exist to consolidate equipment and filling lines through a standardized, flexible system that helps manufacturers trim the total cost of their machinery and processes while more quickly delivering drugs to patients.

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