Packaging: the experts' view

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe talks to leading European pharmaceutical packaging experts about trends and challenges in the industry.
Nov 01, 2009
Volume 21, Issue 11

What trends have you witnessed in the pharmaceutical packaging industry in the last 2 years?

Klefenz: We have seen a geographic shift in investments, towards Asia. Not only are global companies investing in Asia, but so too are the large local companies, particularly in India, China and South East Asia.

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).

Friedbert Klefenz, Bosch Packaging Technology
Tomasi: Multinational enterprises have cut down on investments as part of a general reduction in costs, and are instead opting to purchase efficient lines that meet safety standards and do not have too many optional units or accessories: such lines are simpler than previous systems yet still include cutting-edge technologies.

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.

Carsten Peters, Gerhard Schubert GmbH
A growing number of clients are interested in moving towards sterile disposable systems for the actual filling because this can simplify handling and reduce costs with respect to cleaning and reducing downtimes. These disposable filling systems are also suitable for upgrading existing filling systems with sterile transfers into and out of the isolator.

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?

Piero Tomasi, Marchesini Group
Klefenz: In 2008, 25% of our order intake came from emerging countries. These countries (China, India, South East Asia, Russia, Latin America) are taking a growing share of our order intake and sales portfolio, of both locally manufactured products and imports from Europe. Now, more than 10% of our workforce operates from these countries (including production) and we have five production facilities to serve this customer base.

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.

Jürgen Schäfer, Optima Group Pharma GmbH
Schäfer: Optima already has a branch in China, which is ready to operate within the pharmaceutical sector. However, we are on 'hold' and are closely observing market trends. We have been organizing events at numerous conferences and hosting standalone meetings over the past few years to gain valuable feedback from Asia and to help us to define our strategy.

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