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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

The last words spoken by my two offspring before the tears and screams appear are usually along the lines of “don't worry, Dad”. This simple line is then followed by a very vague and often random set of reasons as to why I should not concern myself with their safety – due to them having already considered the risks and determined that the paper hat will stop any head injury and the grippy shoes stand no chance of slipping when running full steam.

What is comforting when I switch to my working world and, more specifi cally, the development of a piece of packaging to maintain a payload temperature during transport, is that it is now a rarity that a brief will contain any “don't worry” points. As an industry, we have reached a high level of education across all involved partners, and this is coupled with a state of openness between sectors – and even competitors – that is often not seen in other industries.

However, when the question is raised concerning mechanical protection of products to be shipped in thermal packaging, I am still surprised by the “don’t worry” attitude. This is combined with details related to the thickness of the insulation, references to soft gel packs, spacers and copious amounts of bubble wrap to hug the fragile payload, as well as existing results of mechanical tests run on the primary and secondary packaging.

But if we really think about this, it quickly becomes clear that physical payload protection is a vital consideration when adding thermal solutions to packaging, especially when the payload is contained within a fragile injectable device. The soft gel pack need only to be frozen for it to become a rather blunt and weighty risk to the integrity of the primary product.

Frequently, our mechanical labs are tasked with determining the mechanical capabilities of injectable product packaging; tests that look to understand aspects such as damage resistance following a multi-face drop, or seal integrity after lowpressure exposure, are increasingly commonplace requirements. However, all too often, this is as far as it goes. Throughout the stages of thermal packaging design, the idea that further mechanical testing is needed is not a high priority.

With access to a test facility that specialises in both mechanical and thermal solution development, I have the luxury of exploring these interactions without the pressure of a commercial product release. It rapidly becomes clear that the addition of a thermal solution adds a whole new set of variables surrounding mechanical interactions and payload physical safety.

Furthermore, by adding in a mechanical test phase that studies all packaging layers in conjunction, this could result in fewer visits being needed to a mechanical test facility. There is also the potential benefi t of being able to better balance material specifi cation based on a more holistic understanding of the total distribution assembly. When such benefi ts are actualised, we can truly worry a little less and start to be a little more happy.


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Richard Harrop is a qualified structural packaging design engineer, coming previously from the FMCG sector. He has been involved in the temperature-controlled packaging industry for over 10 years. During this time, he has developed and implemented several successful temperature-controlled solutions for many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporations.


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