What trends have you witnessed in the pharmaceutical packaging industry in the last 2 years?
Peters: We have seen a trend towards changing focus in packaging design; product managers are focusing on customer convenience — making packages easy to open or including reclosing features. There is a need, however, for more product tracking through the entire process (e.g., 2D matrix code, track and trace).We have also noted a growing interest in smaller batch sizes as well as data management and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).
Schäfer: We have noticed a continued strong growth in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sectors. In some cases, these highly efficient and sometimes very costly substances require specific technologies; for example, 100% in-process control (IPC), with regard to filling and packaging processes. The IPC developed in this context is also universally applied in 'conventional' projects and can realize major product savings. The issue of output under IPC has also become very topical.
Barrier technologies, such as isolator technology, have gained more acceptance and significance.
Lyophilization seems to be playing an increasing role, ensuring lasting storage life of these bioproducts. The FDA returns for new product registrations demonstrates the increase in lyophilized biopharma products.
In addition, we have seen a growing demand for well coating systems in clinical diagnostics. This trend is a reflection of the advancing development of new diagnostic tests required for novel biotechnological drugs and therapies.
Optical and sensor equipment that control the packaging processes has been gaining popularity during the past 2 years — for biotechnological and conventional products alike. Aspects of product safety, documentation and statistic evaluation of line efficiency accelerated the trend.
The trend for outputs, with a current maximum of 60000 units/h for prefilled syringes, continues to be the alldecisive factor for many projects. This is especially so with vaccines, which is of particular significance in light of the current rise in flu vaccine production.
Generally, there is a growing preference for turnkey projects — for charging a one-stop supplier with the responsible planning, development and implementation of a complete project.
With more companies investing in the emerging markets, how has this affected your company and how has your company responded?
Peters: We are tracing the marked activities in those markets closely to develop relevant technology for the near future. Secondary and end-of-line packaging, for example, is still operated manually from our facilities in Asia. It is expected that these markets will soon require more automated solutions.
Tomasi: We are experiencing a rise in sales and the growing success of our products in these markets. To get closer to countries, such as China, India and South East Asia, we have invested in a widespread sales network, opening new organizations and services across the territory, for example, in India, China, but also in Dubai and Jakarta.