With the increased demand for consumer products, the packaging industry has also started growing. As such, efficient and reliable solutions for this industry became a necessity and were quickly provided by many companies in response to this demand. The package that a product comes in not only ensures the safety and quality of the product but also provides important product details to consumers via prints & labels on the cover. Along with this, it makes a great selling point for the retailer to sell the products. Studies have shown that an attractive package can make a big difference in sales. As far as pharmaceutical packaging is concerned, the right label & composition information is of utmost importance, in addition to quality packaging material.
Streamlining packaging processes through automation
The global packaging industry is expected to grow to $1,652.28 billion by 2027 with the pharmaceutical packaging market reaching around $144.23 billion in the same period. Packaging is frequently used for the dispensing, dosing and administration of pharmaceutical products. Proper usage communication and warning labels are also regulated. Inefficiency in pharmaceutical packaging can have a number of negative outcomes. For one, it may cause the medicinal formulations to become unstable, which significantly increases health hazards due to the incorrect administration of medication. One of the most essential roles of packaging is to protect items from the harmful impact of the outside world. Since many formulations become unstable when exposed to air, moisture or light, these variables must be avoided in order for the medications to stay effective and safe. Errors in pharmaceutical packaging can also lead to medical inaccuracies and even be fatal.
Packaging is an integral part of the pharmaceutical industry. It not only protects the product but also communicates information about the product to the customer. The packaging process involves a number of steps, each with its own challenges, such as errors in labelling, difficulty in maintaining records that could make compliance to regulations difficult, inaccuracy in checking for damages and quality of the package, production & maintenance issues and so on. Automation can help streamline these processes & improve the efficiency in pharmaceutical packaging. Automation and digitisation have not only helped the industry widely overcome these troubles but also lead the same to growth.
The many benefits of automation & digitisation in pharma packaging
Automation in pharma packaging has been around for ecades but it has seen resurgence in recent years due to new technologies that have made it possible to automate more processes than ever before. With automation of the manufacturing unit, one can ensure greater productivity and accuracy in the size, shape, print, etc simultaneously. With sensors, AI, track and trace, blockchain and other digitisation solutions, companies can even keep a record of everything that gets manufactured, approved, transported, sold, rejected and much more. All these records and details of any kind of transactions would ease compliance to rules & regulations within and of the company. With a code that is encrypted and linked to a decentralised platform printed on the pharmaceutical package, the company can store all of the details about the medicine, thereby preventing any medical errors from happening. A very meticulously prepared packaging design could also help in tackling the drug counterfeit problem that is rampant in some parts of the world. This will provide the product with an additional layer of protection by rendering it difficult to counterfeit as well as improve its appearance & giving it an air of prestige.
Digitisation of company assets, such as package machinery, manufacture space, package designs, details, prototypes, etc makes sharing any of these with other parties seamless and secure. Transfer of ownership of assets also becomes fast and effortless as compared to manual transfers. Label automation systems have a number of advantages, including reduced process complexity, reduced personal dependency and efficiencies. As a result, organisations receive faster approvals and pharmaceuticals reach end-users more quickly.
Smart regulatory intelligence automation
Another intricacy that the pharmaceutical industry has to deal with is that a product sold in any geographic market must have labels that meet the regulatory standards of that nation or area. Because there are so many different regulatory standards for the same product across the world, there’s a chance that the information on the labels may be inconsistent. Product labelling or packaging artwork problems are thought to be responsible for almost half of all pharmaceutical recalls. Investigating a labelling issue and determining a resolution takes time which may be saved with increased monitoring. Besides, recalling a product is frequently done in front of the public eye, which might even harm a company’s reputation. As a result, corporations must verify packaging at every stage of production to minimise recalls and guarantee that the latest verified information is distributed to the market. For such global and country-specific requirements, smart regulatory intelligence automation is the most efficient and reliable solution.
Minimising worker injury
It is has become evident that human error is often inevitable in labelling and packaging, which is unacceptable when it comes to pharmaceutical products due to the risks associated with a mislabelled product. Automation leaves no room for error due to its mechanised nature. Moreover, employees in the packing and labelling industries frequently execute highly repetitive activities over long hours, and work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), also known as ergonomic injuries, are widespread. These are some of the most prevalent injuries in the profession, and they usually take more than a week to heal. Employees’ risk of MSDs can naturally be reduced by reducing the quantity of repetitive labour they must do. Since repeated or arduous jobs benefit from regularity, automation solutions are a good fit for them. It is feasible to simultaneously boost productivity and minimise worker injury risk by substituting automation for employees in parts of the process that need highly repetitive actions. Besides, automation is generally a one-time investment which makes it incredibly cost-efficient in the long-term by saving on labour costs, maximising efficiency and reducing the risk of human error.
COVID-19 – A critical juncture
The pharmaceutical packaging market has already enjoyed a massive growth and profits after the application of automated systems, digitisation and other technological advancements that have seen an increase in productivity. Automation can be relied upon for packaging orientation, labelling, supervision of errors, operation monitoring, record maintenance & data from sensors and much more, thereby being advantageous to the industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic raised many questions, like how we can tackle and overcome this crisis and how we can be prepared for the next pandemic. For pharmaceutical businesses involved in the traditional procedure of medication labelling, the pandemic has been a critical juncture. Labels need to tell the end-user about the product and allow them to make an educated choice about what is a safe & healthy option during the pandemic and afterward. Regulatory process automation will undoubtedly replace the present practice in the near future, acting as a stimulus for speeding up label submissions & product approval procedures.
Intelligent and digitised labelling
Companies can drastically increase production speed and product output with the correct automation system in place. It’s not uncommon for an automated bagging system, for example, to pack products considerably more safely & quickly than a human. Automated packaging systems may also multitask and combine numerous packaging procedures, such as sealing and labelling, into a single phase. These methods free up not just one but maybe multiple employees. As a consequence, these technologies may both boost speeds and allow packaging firms to transfer their workforce to jobs that require it, such as shipping and receiving.
In the post-COVID era, all stakeholders of the pharmaceutical industries expect to have minimal contact with the product and still gain customised data through better digital experiences. These expectations are only bound to increase. So, digitising pharmaceutical packaging information can truly help pharma companies in the current times. Due to the risks and concerns associated with the pandemic, patients may be hesitant to make several visits to their pharmacy each month. Packaging automation can consolidate all of their medication in one location for a longer period of time, avoiding the need for separate prescription pickups. Pharmacists benefit from this as well because automation also reduces the need for several pharmacists to be in a confined location at the same time, giving them more room to maintain safe social distancing. With lockdown constraints and social distancing norms introduced by the pandemic, intelligent and digitised labelling is the only way to battle the problem and drive the business ahead.