In the world of pharmaceutical labeling, radical change has never really occurred, nor is it on the horizon; changes are predominantly incremental. However,
change is most definitely afoot – not revolutionary, but definitely perceptible directly linked to the development of therapeutic ‘smart drugs’. Drug
development has previously only really impacted the packaging line where new container types are introduced, but that’s not the case with smart drugs.
Bit by bit smart drugs, in conjunction with advancements in lean manufacturing, are actually altering the very nature of the pharmaceutical packaging and labeling industry.
For the pharmaceutical packaging line, this latest industry development has had more of an impact than you might think and it all stems from the smaller batch sizes that are inherent with producing smart drugs.
Whereas ten – even five – years ago, a standard batch of a drug would often take a day or more to label, we are now looking at comparatively tiny batches of drugs produced for a single person. Setting up the labelling system for a very small batch can end up taking longer than the labelling itself. Shortcuts can’t be made; all the same procedures, quality and validation remain essential and are required under strict regulatory control.
Unexpectedly, the labelling element has become a little more costly and a little more onerous than it had been previously.
Not all labelling machines have been designed to be flexible – there was less need in the past. If you are finding batch sizes are getting smaller, whether from
smart drugs or not, then you should consider investing in a labelling system that has been designed with flexibility in mind.
Some labelling systems offer an alternative, more efficient approach by allowing you to change over entire fitments in one go, which is certainly faster and less prone to error. The changeable fitment could be a starwheel, an entire feeding system, or just the guidance for the container. This is certainly better than adjusting all the machine settings individually, but it’s not an overly sophisticated solution and it still takes time and skill.
What we are instead seeing is a greater interest in labelling machines that are able to automate the changeover process. Such systems incorporate inline machine settings which enable the operator to auto sync all the machine’s features and functions from one container type and the speed of labelling (referred to as containers per minute – cpm) to another, at the press of a button; it’s a menu driven approach that is highly efficient and reliable.
Newman Labelling’s S150 is a prime example of this as it is compatible with a good range of container sizes and shapes, plus label sizes and types yet can be set up with minimum use of change parts. Adjustment for the container diameter through the whole of the machine is achieved through just one adjustment point.