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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Sustainable Savings

PMPS: Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, why should pharma companies push for a green supply chain?

Christoph Hammer: Ecological packaging ties in closely with cost savings. Large pharma companies put a huge emphasis on this – not only do they want to play a part in preserving the planet, they want to protect their own businesses as well. The environment and financial gain go hand in hand.

What are the main challenges of incorporating these factors into current systems?

There is a large base of already-installed old technology and equipment to contend with – old habits die hard, and companies can be slow to adapt or change to new solutions. But this is gradually changing – for example, the US National Environmental Policy Act and many environmental organisations push hard to avoid using plastic and PVC where possible.

World regions are following suit, and more initiatives are being introduced all the time. In the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), the importance of a green supply chain is becoming a major issue.

What is Total Cost of Packaging (TCP)?

Overall costs are closely linked to packaging and logistics. For the secondary packaging of parenteral products, for example, we keep the whole financial picture in mind: by using mono-material on the inbound (flat carton blanks), outbound (compact packs) and disposal processes, cost reduction is a given. Mono-materials are also made environmentally friendly very easily, by producing them in recyclable products such as paperboard.

TCP can also contribute to a greener supply chain by tackling hidden costs with regard to logistics, volume transportation, stocking and storage. We feel that TCP thinking leads to sustainable solutions.

What other benefits can TCP bring to pharma companies?

The following case study should help me answer this question. A well-known pharma company, wishing to reduce their expenses, approached us for advice. Using TCP methods, we looked at the full picture in order to solve the problem.

With this in mind, a 10-count syringe carton was designed to meet the growing demands of the company’s flu vaccine franchise, resulting in increased output, higher equipment efficiency, reduced package material costs and lower cold chain distribution costs.

The top-load carton was made from fully recyclable paperboard material and eliminated the need for pre-made plastic trays and lid material, resulting in savings in excess of $1,000,000 annually. A 50 per cent reduction in pack volume was able to cut expensive cold chain shipping and storage costs by half. The top-loading syringe cartoning system provided four times the throughput of the previous process, with a capacity of producing 800 syringes per minute. The overall equipment effectiveness doubled from 35 per cent to over 70 per cent. The machine can also be configured to package vials, needles and combination packs for other products, if required.

Is TCP a sustainable option?

Ecological, small-volume cartons made from mono-material, which allow for volume reduction, are proving a must. They mean overall savings for many sectors, including logistics, volumes, materials and, in particular, the cold chain. On top of that, of course, they provide sustainable solutions: a hugely topical issue. All of this ties in well with what we are trying to achieve using TCP.

Is it a stand-alone solution, or should it be combined with other methods for best results?

In itself it is a complete solution – that is the good thing about it. Innovative packaging engineering is considered together with the customer and the machinery, providing a better overall solution. In addition, if the product requires blister or other packaging options to be added, this is easily adaptable.

Do you think that TCP and sustainable options are likely to become more widespread over the next few years?

Cost reduction is always going to be a factor. Choosing a mono-material packaging solution ensures sustainable methods, so I can certainly see its potential for widespread usage within the industry.

How do you think the pharma industry will change over the next decade?

People are living longer; illnesses like diabetes are increasing; personalised medicine is moving forward. All of these things will demand a high level of technology in the secondary packaging sector for targeted therapies and long-lasting medication. Being aware of green issues will enable the industry to adapt and stay environmentally safe.

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Christoph Hammer has held the position of Chief Technical Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Dividella in Grabs for the past 14 years. He holds a lot of experience in the food and pharmaceutical packaging industry in the fields of engineering and consulting. His expertise covers the capital equipment industry, and through extensive sales activities he has an excellent knowledge of international markets. Christoph was educated as an electrical engineer with additional degrees in Business and Production Technology.
Christoph Hammer
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